What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

We use the Tune Method to evaluate performance

Moderator: Staff

Spannko
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-01-24 21:46
Location: North East of The Black Country, UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Spannko »

Thanks for your input Rutger 👍

Do you mind me asking if what you’re saying is based on personal experience, or on something you’ve read or been told?

To update my previous post, I’ve been experimenting with different enclosure materials, and the results have been a bit of an eye opener, to say the least! Identically sized baffles made out of different materials have their own unique timbre and effect on the music. The best material I’ve found so far is poplar. It’s not a material I’ve seen used for loudspeakers, possibly because although it’s classified as a hardwood, it’s actually quite soft and easily dented. The second best is maple, followed by American walnut, although I’d possibly say that walnut is bordering on not being quite good enough and even maple is bordering on just good enough. Fortunately, poplar is quite musical. So what’s the very worst material I’ve tried? MDF!!! As used, it has absolutely no musical qualities whatsoever. This may be a slight over exaggeration, because it actually gets worse as its thickness increases, so thinner mdf must have a degree of musicality, but in comparison to any other material, it’s ‘musicality’ is absolutely inaudible. Second worst? Birch plywood!!! I can only conclude (so far) that mdf and plywood are used for loudspeaker enclosures because they’re regular, easy to machine, stable over time and cheap.

Previously, I suggested that the crossover and drive units were possibly more important than the enclosure. The results of my latest experiments suggest that they’re all equally important. As is usual in hifi, everything matters!
lindsayt
Active member
Active member
Posts: 145
Joined: 2010-08-30 19:06
Location: UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by lindsayt »

If only 18mm void-free birch plywood was cheap! Or even available (in the UK)!
One advantage of birch plywood for DIY projects is that, in my opinion you don't need to veneer it to look acceptable. I think that birch plywood has a natural beauty to it.

The joint most musical sounding speakers I've heard, had cabinets made from (painted) 25mm chipboard.

I agree on MDF being unmusical.

Something that's worth trying, from the reports I've had, is lining the speaker cabinets with steel plates. I guess aluminum plates might also be worth a try (and easier to machine).

There may also be a horses for courses element. With the optimum cabinet materials depending on the drivers, the type of cabinet, the details of the cabinet construction, including bracing.
Spannko
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-01-24 21:46
Location: North East of The Black Country, UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Spannko »

You can get 18mm birch ply here: https://mdfdirect.co.uk/product/birch- ... size/18mm/

Joe Akroyd used steel sheeting in his top line 7 litre loudspeaker (Eden?). It produced a very refined sounding speaker, but sadly lost the musicality of the Coniston R’s.

In my experiments, chipboard was slightly better than mdf and on a par with birch ply. However, decent chipboard in multiple thicknesses is very difficult to find and I’m not convinced that the sample I tried was that good. A decent, branded flooring grade might be worth trying though, so I’ll get some and give it a listen.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

Spannko wrote: 2023-09-09 12:35 Thanks for your input Rutger 👍

Do you mind me asking if what you’re saying is based on personal experience, or on something you’ve read or been told?

To update my previous post, I’ve been experimenting with different enclosure materials, and the results have been a bit of an eye opener, to say the least! Identically sized baffles made out of different materials have their own unique timbre and effect on the music. The best material I’ve found so far is poplar. It’s not a material I’ve seen used for loudspeakers, possibly because although it’s classified as a hardwood, it’s actually quite soft and easily dented. The second best is maple, followed by American walnut, although I’d possibly say that walnut is bordering on not being quite good enough and even maple is bordering on just good enough. Fortunately, poplar is quite musical. So what’s the very worst material I’ve tried? MDF!!! As used, it has absolutely no musical qualities whatsoever. This may be a slight over exaggeration, because it actually gets worse as its thickness increases, so thinner mdf must have a degree of musicality, but in comparison to any other material, it’s ‘musicality’ is absolutely inaudible. Second worst? Birch plywood!!! I can only conclude (so far) that mdf and plywood are used for loudspeaker enclosures because they’re regular, easy to machine, stable over time and cheap.

Previously, I suggested that the crossover and drive units were possibly more important than the enclosure. The results of my latest experiments suggest that they’re all equally important. As is usual in hifi, everything matters!
Its from personal experience , I have tried many things :)
Nice to read about your findings.
One can easily hear musical differences with different enclosure material using tunemethod.
The same clear differences can be found using different dampingmaterial inside the box. I have found that sheep wool is the best material, and its because it dont act as a spring, making the airpressure inside the box unlinear.

It was about 25 years ago I did learn that different thickness of the walls in a loudspeaker made a difference for the better in my own DIY speakers, spreading the resonanses at different frequencies and avoiding any tunefork effect. Later I recognized that Rod Crawford had been using this technique many years before that.
Spannko
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-01-24 21:46
Location: North East of The Black Country, UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Spannko »

Thanks Rutger. That makes your findings doubly interesting!

Internal damping is something I’ve really struggled to get to work well. However, I think my methodology may not be very good so it’s not been possible to come to any definitive conclusions. Tuning the enclosure volume without filling is relatively straight forward, but as soon as I add even the slightest amount of filling it seems to reduce the speakers musicality. I think I need to do the experiments again, but this time be more rigorous in how I maintain filling density as the enclosure volume changes. It’s not particularly easy, because (as you know) changing filling density alters the enclosures apparent volume which will de-tune the bass unit loading so it’s easy to end up going round in circles! Have you tried making speakers without any filling?

I’ve seen manufacturers use thicker baffles or rear panels, sometimes just screwing them into place. Although I’ve not done any serious experiments with panel thickness and attachment methods, I’ve noticed that glueing a baffle in place can make a speaker less musical, possibly due to more energy being transferred into the main enclosure. Is this anything you’ve tried too?
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

Spannko wrote: 2023-09-09 15:49 Thanks Rutger. That makes your findings doubly interesting!

Internal damping is something I’ve really struggled to get to work well. However, I think my methodology may not be very good so it’s not been possible to come to any definitive conclusions. Tuning the enclosure volume without filling is relatively straight forward, but as soon as I add even the slightest amount of filling it seems to reduce the speakers musicality. I think I need to do the experiments again, but this time be more rigorous in how I maintain filling density as the enclosure volume changes. It’s not particularly easy, because (as you know) changing filling density alters the enclosures apparent volume which will de-tune the bass unit loading so it’s easy to end up going round in circles! Have you tried making speakers without any filling?

I’ve seen manufacturers use thicker baffles or rear panels, sometimes just screwing them into place. Although I’ve not done any serious experiments with panel thickness and attachment methods, I’ve noticed that glueing a baffle in place can make a speaker less musical, possibly due to more energy being transferred into the main enclosure. Is this anything you’ve tried too?
If the baffle is screwed in place it might sound good If you are lucky but than there is always a risk with a main resonanse occuring exactly at the frequency of a real tone that the musicians are playing. Using only glue with pressure seems to be more even in the forces occuring in the cabinet. I have tried to make a whole cabinet heavier putting thin extra walls inside of the cabinet and the sound became less musical.
I then only used extra thickness on each opposite wall , and this time the sound was better than a cabinet without extra thickness on the walls. I was spreading the resonanse frequencies from the different walls.This was repeated in two different DIY constructions with the same result, one was a closed box speaker and the other was a bassreflex loaded.

Then we have the dampingmaterial - some of it just makes the cabinet slightly virtual larger inside ( the usual white wadding ) and some is doing good damping above 100 Hz . There is always a risk of drawing wrong conclusions and go round in circles so one must try in each case. To much sheep wool will kill the musicality so one has to try different amounts of damping material. Metal cones or very rigit ones seems to be more immune to the sound coming delayed from the inside of the cabinet and through the cone, so slightly less damping material might be used in such cases - but again, no rule of thumb .

The resonanses from a cabinet is often very real and audible and If they come exactly at the same frequency as one of the left hands tones played by a piano , one will hear it and not in a good way.

I have also come to the conclusion that for 2 channel playback, the loudspeakercabinett shouldnt be totally dead because the very primitive stereosystem with all its faults. Some resonanses in the right places can make the sound more believable. Rigid spikes screwed into the base plate of the cabinet and with the sharp tip of the spikes into the floor often makes it easier to follow the tune of the bassplayer in a recording, you get somewhat ” less amount of bass” with spikes but in reality the bass tones are less smeared and more in tune . This is definitely true if you have a very rigid floor ( concrete )

Unrigid floors are more problematic and Linn sheets seems to lessen the bad effects of a springy floor.

Im happy to read about your findings because there are not much written about the art of making a good loudspeaker cabinet. I also believe that there is a lot of knowledge about how to do it at Linn, but also at the store tonlaeget where the constructor seems to have tested many things with his Klongedang speakers. Maybe he is active on this forum and can give us some more information ?
Spannko
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-01-24 21:46
Location: North East of The Black Country, UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Spannko »

I agree Rutger, there’s practically nothing written about how to build a musical loudspeaker. I was asked to recommend a book, and in all honesty, I couldn’t recommend one. They’re all just a collection of loudspeaker research, none of which focuses on a loudspeaker’s ability to play something as simple as rhythms and tunes. Similarly, all of the diy loudspeaker forums focus on a loudspeaker’s technical measurements. As tuneistas, we have to do our own research.

Unfortunately, it gets worse! Drive unit manufacturers don’t appear to design for musicality, and despite what their marketing departments claim, crossover component manufacturers don’t either. Every single drive unit, capacitor, inductor and resistor has its own level of musicality, and from what I’ve heard, nearly all of them are pretty poor. It’s no wonder that practically all loudspeakers on the market fail to reproduce music in a wholly convincing manner.

From a source first perspective, the crossover could possibly be the most important element, yet there’s practically nothing written about crossover design. The general approach to designing a loudspeaker is to pick drive units with good looking specs (whatever they may be!), use a computer program to design the “optimal” enclosure (whatever that is!) and then use a crossover simulator to find a combination of components which will somehow compensate for drive unit and enclosure errors and miscalculations. From a source first perspective, this appears to be total madness. If the crossover was designed first, it appears to me that there would be only one topology which would let the signal through without destroying its harmonic integrity: a series connected, first order dual filter network, consisting only of one capacitor and one inductor. I appreciate that this is a bold statement and that it places considerable demands on the drive units and may produce the type of sound people are unaccustomed to, but it seems to me that conventional loudspeaker design methodology only works very occasionally, and only then by accident. Even the more knowledgeable manufacturers struggle to consistently produce musical loudspeakers. Time will tell if I’m on the right track, but the initial results have been pretty encouraging!
matthias
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2119
Joined: 2007-12-25 16:47
Location: Germany

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by matthias »

Spannko wrote: 2023-09-10 16:30 If the crossover was designed first, it appears to me that there would be only one topology which would let the signal through without destroying its harmonic integrity: a series connected, first order dual filter network, consisting only of one capacitor and one inductor.
Completely agree, Spannko, this is my "dream XO" as well. With such a XO there is no need for "active" solutions at all.
Matt

MBP / Exposure pre + power (both modified) / JBL3677
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

Spannko wrote: 2023-09-10 16:30 I agree Rutger, there’s practically nothing written about how to build a musical loudspeaker. I was asked to recommend a book, and in all honesty, I couldn’t recommend one. They’re all just a collection of loudspeaker research, none of which focuses on a loudspeaker’s ability to play something as simple as rhythms and tunes. Similarly, all of the diy loudspeaker forums focus on a loudspeaker’s technical measurements. As tuneistas, we have to do our own research.

Unfortunately, it gets worse! Drive unit manufacturers don’t appear to design for musicality, and despite what their marketing departments claim, crossover component manufacturers don’t either. Every single drive unit, capacitor, inductor and resistor has its own level of musicality, and from what I’ve heard, nearly all of them are pretty poor. It’s no wonder that practically all loudspeakers on the market fail to reproduce music in a wholly convincing manner.

From a source first perspective, the crossover could possibly be the most important element, yet there’s practically nothing written about crossover design. The general approach to designing a loudspeaker is to pick drive units with good looking specs (whatever they may be!), use a computer program to design the “optimal” enclosure (whatever that is!) and then use a crossover simulator to find a combination of components which will somehow compensate for drive unit and enclosure errors and miscalculations. From a source first perspective, this appears to be total madness. If the crossover was designed first, it appears to me that there would be only one topology which would let the signal through without destroying its harmonic integrity: a series connected, first order dual filter network, consisting only of one capacitor and one inductor. I appreciate that this is a bold statement and that it places considerable demands on the drive units and may produce the type of sound people are unaccustomed to, but it seems to me that conventional loudspeaker design methodology only works very occasionally, and only then by accident. Even the more knowledgeable manufacturers struggle to consistently produce musical loudspeakers. Time will tell if I’m on the right track, but the initial results have been pretty encouraging!
Yes, its almost that the most musical speaker should be a speaker without any crossover .

One more thing I want to contribute to this thread and its something I have recently discovered.
I have always wondered why the bass quality of the Linn Keltik was so good , and why some of the successors sounded less good at some points. In my opinion, its a very bad idea to have a subwooferdriver placed very near the floor, because you excite the whole room more than having it higher up from the floor. Some might say floor level placement of the driver could be a good thing, but if a clear pitch is the goal, it probably isnt.

So, using two very expensive active loudspeaker with subwoofer, I raised up the subwoofer so it was placed about 50 cm above the floor and the soundquality regarding a clear pitch became much better.
This is a rather good video:

https://youtu.be/S_GwaGeWQOg?si=iQa9Lwc5QR1IOrJN

( he explains why its a problem with floorstanding subwoofers, but he knows nothing about the tunemethod , so he makes some wrong solutions )

Later on, with two stereo DIY subwoofers, I recognized that two subwoofers sounds the best at the exact spot as the main speakers are placed, If using tunemethod in installation. And the subwoofers sounds even better 50 cm above the floor . - exactly the way Keltik or Isobarik was made.
Conlusion : A subwoofer should be inbuilt in the main speaker cabinet and not placed at floor level.

Drawing the conclusion of some of this , my last DIY speakers was a very simple construction that had the basstube on the backside of the cabinett, about 50 cm above the floor. The sound didnt need any roomcorrection at all and this became my best construction yet.

It might be a very good idea also ( in a bass reflex speaker ) to tune the speaker below the musical tones area, ie below lowest E from a bassguitar, 41 Hz . You easily mess up the tune If its right were the musical content is. In this case, its probably better if the tuning is somewhere between 34-36 Hz.
To complicate things, the box volume must follow the chosen tuning frequency, a lower frequency usually needs a bigger a box. And different drivers needs different box volume.

Another thing happened some time ago, were my friend who has a very expensive system ( Linn exakt with klimax source ) had done a tunemethod installation off his speakers and the inside of the speakers front baffle was placed 43,5 cm from the frontwall. This was very strange because I had done the same installation at my place the week before with different speakers and source, and they also happend to be placed 43,5 cm from baffle to the backwall. Coincidence ?

If there is something in this findings, technicaly you do change the SBIR frequency when one moves speakers from the frontwall and 43.5 cm baffle-frontwall might be the optimal frequency to make the stereo system faults as ”good” as it can be and the sound most tuneful , thus making the illusion better ? This might be the wrong conclusion and maybe this is just a coincident.

Conventional wisdom also tells us that we can only hear 20-20000 Hz .

I think this is wrong - we hear from 1 Hz to 20000 Hz , but the lowest frequencies are ”heard” by the body , feeling the rythm of the beat.

A guitar cord thats been struck has a very short beginning of very low frequencies right before the string starts to resonate at a higher frequency. This is probably why one can hear that a HP filtering beginning at 20 Hz in an amplifier is bad for the sound, and why one can experience that a HP filtering of 3 Hz sounds better with less blurring of the guitar pitch. I know this is my opinion and I have heard some loudspeakers (Linn ) that sounded better with a HP crossover right below the tuning point , but If one use driveunits that can take the punishment without sounding bad below the drivers fs, the sound might get better If the amplifier is close to DC in response.

As you already know, a passive loudspeaker, unconnected and placed in the listening room will colour the pitch of the tones in the music because of sympathetic resonanses. So when doing fine tuning of damping material in a DIY speaker, its important to put away all other passive speakers in the room.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undertone_series

More:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sympathetic_resonance
lindsayt
Active member
Active member
Posts: 145
Joined: 2010-08-30 19:06
Location: UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by lindsayt »

Spannko wrote: 2023-09-09 15:49 Thanks Rutger. That makes your findings doubly interesting!

Internal damping is something I’ve really struggled to get to work well. However, I think my methodology may not be very good so it’s not been possible to come to any definitive conclusions. Tuning the enclosure volume without filling is relatively straight forward, but as soon as I add even the slightest amount of filling it seems to reduce the speakers musicality. I think I need to do the experiments again, but this time be more rigorous in how I maintain filling density as the enclosure volume changes. It’s not particularly easy, because (as you know) changing filling density alters the enclosures apparent volume which will de-tune the bass unit loading so it’s easy to end up going round in circles! Have you tried making speakers without any filling?

I’ve seen manufacturers use thicker baffles or rear panels, sometimes just screwing them into place. Although I’ve not done any serious experiments with panel thickness and attachment methods, I’ve noticed that glueing a baffle in place can make a speaker less musical, possibly due to more energy being transferred into the main enclosure. Is this anything you’ve tried too?
It sounds like you have the answer already. Don't use any damping at all! Or at most, try a "curtain" about half way down the speaker to "break up standing waves".
Spannko
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-01-24 21:46
Location: North East of The Black Country, UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Spannko »

Thanks lindsayt. I’m not entirely convinced I’ve got any answers tbh, mainly because I’m not entirely convinced I understand the questions!
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Having "messed about" with some of my own speaker designs and modified existing speakers with different drive units and designed tens of digital crossovers, its very clear to me that a loudspeaker is a system and not a hierarchy as such.

Designing a fabulous crossover without knowing the characteristics of the drivers, nor how those drivers behave in a cabinet is rather pointless. Saying birch is better than MDF is not a valid standalone statement - it has to have context of the design of cabinet in mind - rigidity vs mass vs vibration etc. Buying the best drivers possible and sticking them in a cardboard box from the packing area at Ikea isn't going to get you a great result. Saying a cabinet vibrating along with the music is a good design concept also depends on the drivers and crossover - if, for example, the cabinet vibrates at the same frequency a drive unit has a peak, its going to be bad news, but if it coincides with a trough in a drive unit response, it may be a compromised improvement. Those who do have vibrating cabinets in their products don't seem to talk about the impact of time smearing on musical enjoyment...

The last pair I messed about with were Ninkas with SEAS mid-bass drive units - and the difference the wadding inside these infinite baffle designs makes is closely coupled to the drive unit in use. Despite being pretty much identical physical dimensions to the standard Ninka units, the wadding volume had to be changed to deliver musicality - and small changes make a big difference between dull / musical / loose. The longest part of the build was forever removing drivers, tweaking the wadding and putting the drivers back in. Painful.

Similarly with crossovers, seemingly small changes in crossover points (let's say 50Hz in the mid to treble crossover, which is a very small value when we're talking about 3000Hz) can have a big impact on musicality in some speaker systems and be pretty much non-impacting in others (even when operating within the "nice" part of drive unit performance). Plus, I guess here most will know that designing a completely flat FR is no guarantee of musicality. Microphone measuring FR is helpful in finding problems, but it doesn't tell you anything much about musicality. Its not always clear if a 3rd or 4th order slope is going to be the most musical, nor if its L-R or BW that gives the best result. Trying to remember to make all of these choices in a logical order to avoid duplication is a discipline I'm finally getting to grips with.

I find the "scientific" approach to a design gets to a basic starting point, but then lots of experimenting with different directions on lots of parameters is required to eek out musicality. Sometimes to extreme lengths which can end up with abandoning something as a fundamentally bad idea from a musicality pespective. Sometimes you can get lucky very quickly!

Some insight here to how Kudos approach their designs - essentially they have a "hunch" then experiment with it!
https://audiophilemusings.blogspot.com/ ... visit.html
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Some of you on the thread might be impressed with the simplicity of the 3-way crossover in the Kudos Titan 808 - Kudos are very much in favour of selecting drive units and cabinet designs that deliver as much of the crossover as possible, supplementing with the crossover itself only where the drivers / cabinet designs can't do enough.

Image

Contrast with PMC's fact.12, also a 3-way (the lower board in this picture).

Image

In my experience, both are very musical speakers.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Today I went to a hifi show where all 5 rooms featured the new Naim 200 or 300 series electronics.
Speakers as follows:
B&W 801 D4
Dynaudio Confidence 60
Focal Utopia Diablo
Kudos Titan 808
Kef Blade Two

Every room sounded harsh and, somehow, over exaggeratedly detailed. But, more importantly, not one room was musically engaging. I know that the Titan 808 is capable of a musical performance with other electronics, including some of Naim's older kit. Today the Titans were the least offensive, but not musical.
Conclusion for me, and most here will not be surprised, a musical speaker can only be musical if it is fed a musical signal, regardless of how that speaker's musicality was achieved.
Oh, and the new Naim stuff isn't for me.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-19 17:21 Today I went to a hifi show where all 5 rooms featured the new Naim 200 or 300 series electronics.
Speakers as follows:
B&W 801 D4
Dynaudio Confidence 60
Focal Utopia Diablo
Kudos Titan 808
Kef Blade Two

Every room sounded harsh and, somehow, over exaggeratedly detailed. But, more importantly, not one room was musically engaging. I know that the Titan 808 is capable of a musical performance with other electronics, including some of Naim's older kit. Today the Titans were the least offensive, but not musical.
Conclusion for me, and most here will not be surprised, a musical speaker can only be musical if it is fed a musical signal, regardless of how that speaker's musicality was achieved.
Oh, and the new Naim stuff isn't for me.
Did they have expensive ”audiophile” power blocks and maybe some ultra expensive power chords at this hifi show ? In my experience such devices can destroy the musicality completely .
Setting up speakers in the room randomly, without tunemethod is also a good recipe to get a very bad sound even If the gear is good.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-18 23:54 Having "messed about" with some of my own speaker designs and modified existing speakers with different drive units and designed tens of digital crossovers, its very clear to me that a loudspeaker is a system and not a hierarchy as such.

Designing a fabulous crossover without knowing the characteristics of the drivers, nor how those drivers behave in a cabinet is rather pointless. Saying birch is better than MDF is not a valid standalone statement - it has to have context of the design of cabinet in mind - rigidity vs mass vs vibration etc. Buying the best drivers possible and sticking them in a cardboard box from the packing area at Ikea isn't going to get you a great result. Saying a cabinet vibrating along with the music is a good design concept also depends on the drivers and crossover - if, for example, the cabinet vibrates at the same frequency a drive unit has a peak, its going to be bad news, but if it coincides with a trough in a drive unit response, it may be a compromised improvement. Those who do have vibrating cabinets in their products don't seem to talk about the impact of time smearing on musical enjoyment...

The last pair I messed about with were Ninkas with SEAS mid-bass drive units - and the difference the wadding inside these infinite baffle designs makes is closely coupled to the drive unit in use. Despite being pretty much identical physical dimensions to the standard Ninka units, the wadding volume had to be changed to deliver musicality - and small changes make a big difference between dull / musical / loose. The longest part of the build was forever removing drivers, tweaking the wadding and putting the drivers back in. Painful.

Similarly with crossovers, seemingly small changes in crossover points (let's say 50Hz in the mid to treble crossover, which is a very small value when we're talking about 3000Hz) can have a big impact on musicality in some speaker systems and be pretty much non-impacting in others (even when operating within the "nice" part of drive unit performance). Plus, I guess here most will know that designing a completely flat FR is no guarantee of musicality. Microphone measuring FR is helpful in finding problems, but it doesn't tell you anything much about musicality. Its not always clear if a 3rd or 4th order slope is going to be the most musical, nor if its L-R or BW that gives the best result. Trying to remember to make all of these choices in a logical order to avoid duplication is a discipline I'm finally getting to grips with.

I find the "scientific" approach to a design gets to a basic starting point, but then lots of experimenting with different directions on lots of parameters is required to eek out musicality. Sometimes to extreme lengths which can end up with abandoning something as a fundamentally bad idea from a musicality pespective. Sometimes you can get lucky very quickly!

Some insight here to how Kudos approach their designs - essentially they have a "hunch" then experiment with it!
https://audiophilemusings.blogspot.com/ ... visit.html
Interesting information sunbeamgls !

Making very small changes in the crossover and/or using different crossover steepness can as you say completely change the sound of a loudspeaker - from bad to very good sounding. Further , an active crossover ( dsp or IC based ) is always placed before the power amps and before the drivers and those can never regain whats been lost in the crossover. A bad active crossover is worse sounding than a good passive one .

Crossovers always works with damping the audio signal at certain audio frequencies, ie robs the music a bit of energy If its not perfectly executed . One can experiment with using a single driver without any crossover and feed it with a very good music signal -, the timbre will be somewhat colored and the frequency response will be non-flat, but the music playback will be good anyway and all the energy from the musicians will be sustained. This is good for experimenting and If one takes this single driver and use a LP/HP crossover to a tweeter , the music might become less colored but some energy in the music gonna be lost in the crossover.

Using tunemethod, its very clear that changing the tweeter level in the crossover only 1 dB has a big impact on how the bass is gonna sound. This is because a base player plays all frequencies at the same time , from about 41 Hz to 8 kHz and changing the frequency response the wrong direction at 4 kHz can alter the perceived pitch of the bass tone, making it less clear .

Regarding loudspeaker material: In my experience, one should at any cost avoid any tunefork effects from the loudspeaker cabinet ( can be avoided using different thickness on each opposite wall ) . This seems to be more important than the material used. In my opinion its also important to lead away the energy from the driver/cabinet as quick as possible ( using spikes ) . In this way we dont loose any energy, as we do If we are damping the resonanses with soft materials like SD feets ( terrible sounding ) .

Conventional wisdom tells us that we hear 20 Hz - 20000 Hz . I think this is wrong.
We hear 1 Hz - 20000 Hz , but the lowest frequencies communicates with us through the body and can be felt as a beat or rythm . Its a very bad idea to do damping of those lower frequencies . This is also the reason a loudspeaker driver thats very loose mounted to the baffle sounds worse playing tunes than the same driver thats clamped rigidly to the cabinet.
Last edited by Rutger on 2023-11-20 13:54, edited 1 time in total.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:07
sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-19 17:21 Today I went to a hifi show where all 5 rooms featured the new Naim 200 or 300 series electronics.
Speakers as follows:
B&W 801 D4
Dynaudio Confidence 60
Focal Utopia Diablo
Kudos Titan 808
Kef Blade Two

Every room sounded harsh and, somehow, over exaggeratedly detailed. But, more importantly, not one room was musically engaging. I know that the Titan 808 is capable of a musical performance with other electronics, including some of Naim's older kit. Today the Titans were the least offensive, but not musical.
Conclusion for me, and most here will not be surprised, a musical speaker can only be musical if it is fed a musical signal, regardless of how that speaker's musicality was achieved.
Oh, and the new Naim stuff isn't for me.
Did they have expensive ”audiophile” power blocks and maybe some ultra expensive power chords at this hifi show ? In my experience such devices can destroy the musicality completely .
Setting up speakers in the room randomly, without tunemethod is also a good recipe to get a very bad sound even If the gear is good.
Yes and no, dependent on the room. For example the B&W system used all "stock" cables right down to NACA5 speaker cables. Other rooms used more expensive cables. I didn't see any active mains equipment today, but also didn't take note of which distro blocks were in use. But from experience, I don't think these systems were suffering from issues brought by accessories, they were far more fundamental than that. To hear Titan 808s sounding so unmusical was a big surprise. The common factor across all the rooms was the new range of Naim electronics.

BTW, I think claiming that all expensive power leads and distro blocks are always bad based on their price is a bold claim. As with all products, I find musicality : price ratio has no correlation at all.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
Charlie1
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 4887
Joined: 2007-12-11 00:30
Location: UK

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Charlie1 »

Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35 Crossovers always works with damping the audio signal at certain audio frequencies, ie robs the music a bit of energy If its not perfectly executed . One can experiment with using a single driver without any crossover and feed it with a very good music signal -, the timbre will be somewhat colored and the frequency response will be non-flat, but the music playback will be good anyway and all the energy from the musicians will be sustained. This is good for experimenting and If one takes this single driver and use a LP/HP crossover to a tweeter , the music might become less colored but some energy in the music gonna be lost in the crossover.
Whilst the 212s I had a while were very tuneful, I felt that life was robbed from the music so perhaps that was the relatively complex crossover. Either that, or Tundra Monos do not have enough grunt for them, or my setup skills were not good enough. I do like the influence of a dedicted midrange unit on sound quality but so far never found one in a speaker that I was truly happy with - not lived with many though, just Briks, Kabers, and the 212s.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35
Making very small changes in the crossover and/or using different crossover steepness can as you say completely change the sound of a loudspeaker - from bad to very good sounding. Further , an active crossover ( dsp or IC based ) is always placed before the drivers and those can never regain whats been lost in the crossover. A bad active crossover is worse sounding than a good passive one .
An active crossover or a passive crossover is always placed before the drivers, so the loss of music in either is possible.
As for a bad active crossover being worse than a good passive one, the opposite is also true.
Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35
Crossovers always works with damping the audio signal at certain audio frequencies, ie robs the music a bit of energy If its not perfectly executed . One can experiment with using a single driver without any crossover and feed it with a very good music signal -, the timbre will be somewhat colored and the frequency response will be non-flat, but the music playback will be good anyway and all the energy from the musicians will be sustained. This is good for experimenting and If one takes this single driver and use a LP/HP crossover to a tweeter , the music might become less colored but some energy in the music gonna be lost in the crossover.
It think this is true of analogue crossovers (don't they all remove some energy from the signal, however good the implementation?), but is theoretically(!!!!) not true of digital crossovers.

A single driver is not guaranteed to be musical just because there is no crossover, Also, drivers are not 100% efficient so energy is lost in drivers too. A single driver doesn't pass along all the energy from the musicians and certainly not at the frequency points that driver is incapable of reproducing.
Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35 Using tunemethod, its very clear that changing the tweeter level in the crossover only 1 dB has a big impact on how the bass is gonna sound. This is because a base player plays all frequencies at the same time , from about 41 Hz to 8 kHz and changing the frequency response the wrong direction at 4 kHz can alter the perceived pitch of the bass tone, making it less clear .
Agreed on the perception of such effects, similarly adding or subtracting a subwoofer in a system has a much bigger impact than just the low frequencies. However, most are rolled off well before they can produce the high frequencies you refer to - perhaps there is more about the brain's processing here than there is about what's coming directly from the speakers, some kind of assumptions based on experience perhaps?
Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35 Regarding loudspeaker material: In my experience, one should at any cost avoid any tunefork effects from the loudspeaker cabinet ( can be avoided using different thickness on each opposite wall ) . This seems to be more important than the material used. In my opinion its also important to lead away the energy from the driver/cabinet as quick as possible ( using spikes ) . In this way we dont loose any energy, as we do If we are damping the resonanses with soft materials like SD feets ( terrible sounding ) .
There are designers out there with successful products that disagree with you. Whilst I wouldn't claim to be a designer I find that those designs don't do to well on the foot tapping front, probably due to the time smearing caused by the vibrations in the cabinet. As for spikes - they do add their own challenges - any interface between materials creates reflections - in this case energy going back into the cabinet (again, time smearing). Which is the greater evil is another one of those "what if" questions!
Rutger wrote: 2023-11-19 21:35 Conventional wisdom tells us that we hear 20 Hz - 20000 Hz . I think this is wrong.
We hear 1 Hz - 20000 Hz , but the lowest frequencies communicates with us through the body and can be felt as a beat or rythm . Its a very bad idea to do damping of those lower frequencies . This is also the reason a loudspeaker driver thats very loose mounted to the baffle sounds worse playing tunes than the same driver thats clamped rigidly to the cabinet.
An interesting idea. But if a driver or amplifier can't cope with, let's say 15Hz or below, then trying to make either of them do those things is a bad idea. So if a driver can't cope with 15Hz it might be better to not let it see those low frequencies so it can do what it can cope with in a better way.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Charlie1 wrote: 2023-11-19 22:40
Whilst the 212s I had a while were very tuneful, I felt that life was robbed from the music so perhaps that was the relatively complex crossover. Either that, or Tundra Monos do not have enough grunt for them, or my setup skills were not good enough. I do like the influence of a dedicted midrange unit on sound quality but so far never found one in a speaker that I was truly happy with - not lived with many though, just Briks, Kabers, and the 212s.
Akubariks also have complex crossovers yet I've thoroughly enjoyed them with a Boazu.

If only life was simple!
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

I guess it comes down with how music works. Its ordered frequencies in the time domain. Less order, worse sound. If energy is lost somewhere in the system it cant be recovered later in the chain. If one hifi system makes you tap your feet more than another - its a better system and most probably more pitch accurate. Those products can ofcourse also be found outside the Linn brand.

Each and every step in loudspeaker construction can, in my opinion , be evaluated using tunemethod , - the crossover, the drivers, the cabinet and the internal cables and the terminals.

I dont agree that source first cant be used in loudspeaker building . The crossover is always before the drivers , ie its more important for the sound than the driver itself . A bad crossover with the best loudspeakerdriver in the world will sound bad. A good crossover with a bad driver but with a good source will always sound good.
Last edited by Rutger on 2023-11-20 08:28, edited 4 times in total.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-19 23:04
If only life was simple!
Sometimes it really is simple !

When I recently evaluated cheap interconnects to see I there was any bargains to be made ( there was ) I used the song ”Keith dont go” with Nils Lovgren on guitar. It took only one or two chords to hear if the sound went better or worse using the different interconnects, and the results was consistent with other music to. When we get the pitch right, then the foot tapping automatically comes and we dont even think about it.

A very simple loudspeaker with a very good source and amplifier dont need any roomcorrection.

Why is that, ? one may ask. The problems that we believe are room problems are often problems with the source .
Last edited by Rutger on 2023-11-20 08:31, edited 1 time in total.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

"A good crossover with a bad driver but with a good source will always sound good."

Not necessarily, it can still sound bad, that's why its described as a bad driver. Perhaps you meant it would be better? Even then, we're taking about a sliding scale, not a binary. Souce first doesn't guarantee what comes out of the end of system will be good, it improves the chances of that.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
sunbeamgls
Very active member
Very active member
Posts: 1095
Joined: 2012-04-04 15:19
Location: North Wales
Contact:

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by sunbeamgls »

Rutger wrote: 2023-11-20 08:16
sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-19 23:04
If only life was simple!
Sometimes it really is simple !

When I recently evaluated cheap interconnects to see I there was any bargains to be made ( there was ) I used the song ”Keith dont go” with Nils Lovgren on guitar. It took only one or two chords to hear if the sound went better or worse using the different interconnects, and the results was consistent with other music to. When we get the pitch right, then the foot tapping automatically comes and we dont even think about it.
Interconnects weren't being discussed. The complexity of a crossover and an amp's ability were being discussed.
KSH/0; KEBox/2; 3x Tundra Stereo 2.5; PMC fact.12. Blogger. Exakt Design. SO measuring.
Rutger
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 71
Joined: 2007-03-03 07:42

Re: What Makes a Loudspeaker Musical?

Post by Rutger »

sunbeamgls wrote: 2023-11-20 08:30 "A good crossover with a bad driver but with a good source will always sound good."

Not necessarily, it can still sound bad, that's why its described as a bad driver. Perhaps you meant it would be better? Even then, we're taking about a sliding scale, not a binary. Souce first doesn't guarantee what comes out of the end of system will be good, it improves the chances of that.
I dont agree with that - I say a good source not only improves the chance, it can be clearly heard even through a bad driver.
Post Reply