27 August, 2009

HiFi Basics: Why Horn Speakers?

With this article I am going to start to link some of what I had previously written in my Yahoo group Doctorjohn_Cheaptubeaudio to this Blog. I believe even many of my friends in R33 haven't read my previous stuff. This is also the first of my "HiFi Basics" series.

HiFi Basics: Why Horn Speakers?
(originally appeared in a thread that started here, on 11/3/2001.)

"People are often interested in horn speakers but sometimes find them unsatisfactory in shops or have problems with them even at home. So it's actually discouraging to many. Here are some thoughts:

First and foremost, you have to "get" what a horn sound is (note: the more I go along, the more I realize many horn users don't even know what it is!). This is more important than you think. Many audiophiles, long polluted by hifi jargons, pay almost excessive attention to imaging, soundstage, tonal qualities etc. They forget what it means by "REAL" (simulation of course). REAL is not just timbral accuracy nor just harmonics (though horns do that in spades), it's an indescribable feeling of "you are there". This can also be referred to as "presence" though this word has other connotations regarding midband.

This is most obvious on brass and wind instruments, like saxophone. It should sound like the thing blowing in your living room. Percussions and string instruments should also have a similar feeling, but these are more difficult to recognize. Indeed regarding violin, if you believe Editor Chan's claim that Sonus Faber Guarnieri, LS3/5A and Ensemble Reference is violin, then you may need to re-think the horn's presentation. To me, a good horn like Klipsch and Lowther does better.

The usual virtue of high efficiency and use of single digit watt amplifiers is known. Therefore horns allow you to use cheap low powered amps to perfection. Horn is also for the minority of audiophiles who like to play music loud, like classical symphonic music. A few watts will not feel like "bottoming out", unlike conventional speakers. In this respect, horn is more versatile. It can play soft, and loud.

Editor Chan says one thing right. It takes at least 3 years to get a handle on horns. Not for people short of patience"...

"...practically horn users, like me, believe the "atmosphere" and "ambience" provided by the horn is not duplicated by other designs.

True, the box, especially the folded horn, introduce probably great coloration. But I am not sure at all the "presence" factor has to do with coloration. As an example, I think the Lowther is quite colored, and is less accurate in sound than the La Scala, but its presence
factor is not as high...

This feeling of "presence" seems to be only appreciated by horn users. :-). Indeed not everyone takes to the horn and I knew I'd fail miserably in conveying what horn users feel."...

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