Are Lowthers a "full range listening" speaker?

To TWL: (or anyone else)- I am intrigued by the concept of back-loaded corner horns because when I used to own a pair of Quad 57's all I could think was that the sound was basically perfect if only they would go much louder, deeper, and a bit higher! My very broad tastes includes a lot of music which is delivered in concert through electric amplification, not merely just rock, but also Loreena McKennett, and even performers at folk festivals, world beat, etc. Live performance in this case is not the same as the symphony at all, from what my ears tell me in 8th row center, or the middle of the field!. I couldn't say which music I am more prepared to lean away from if I have to, but a former pair of Klipch Cornwalls, while fun at times, were way too forward and overbearing most of the time. It would be nice to be happy with both electric and acoustic presentations.

So I am wondering (after all the above) if from your own experiences you regard the Lowther type as the ticket for broad listening, since its unlikely anytime soon that I will hear them. (I know, I know---no one can answer except to their own tastes).

After following TWL's postings and others on the subject of full range reproduction, I am curious about a few things:

Have you heard the AER and the very expensive Reps and do you find huge sonic differences? Which AER? Are you thinking of parting with an extra grand (or more) for the upper end drivers anytime soon?

Also-TWL- have you heard the Oris horns and what do you think compared to your own rig? I note that Bert Doppenberg, in a discussion posting, said he no longer finds back horn set-ups the best, due to unacceptable frequency colourations and lack of low bass (though he once loved them) and even less so with Lowther drive units, which he says are inferior to his own version of AER. BD seems to be suggesting that Oris horns and full range drivers coupled to separate bass enclosures is the way to progress from back loaded horns, though at a significant cost, to be sure.

A more affordable project to me would be along the lines of the AER?/Hedlunds. Do Lowther/Voight Pipes sound similar?

I think the short answer to your question is "no". You cannot expect a Lowther system to reproduce the lower octaves unless you have extremely large cabinets. That said, I find that coupled to a good subwoofer to handle the lower frequency extremes, one of these systems will provide one of the most musical listening experiences possible. I was on a continuous upgrade path until I discovered the glory of a Lowther/SET system with a high quality sub. I know it is a matter of taste since all sytems are compromised to some extent, but it works for me.
Herman is so right! So as Lowther based system, even without the SUB. Much closer to the 'real thing' than any conventional set-up. Why? Dunno, even with many obvious faults Horn (folded)/ SET is as good as you can get. Check the official Lowther web-site, and you can see numerous Lowter based plans. I listened Beauhorn Virtuoso, and i am convinced that 80hz is enough. For me!
Herman and Eldragon: Guess I should clarify~question refers to a full range of music, not frequency response. Thanks for comments. What kind of sub, and did that help mainly rythmic drive? Getting ahead of myself, but.....
I would say that if you mean "fullrange" to include the lowest octave(20Hz-40Hz), the answer would be no. But for my tastes, I would say that the Lowther/Voight Pipe system I have is quite satisfactory for "broad listening". I have not had any extended listening exposure to the BD AER or Reps-1 drivers or systems, so I cannot really give you insight into those systems, although I think they also have good merit, but are still limited to similar frequency range as Lowther. Since the new series of Lowther drivers have improvements in key areas over previous models, any advantages that may have been attributable to AER or Reps is now negligable in my opinion. Any of these brands will provide very nice crossoverless sound in a good cabinet design. They will play quite loud with low wattage, and give extraordinarily good sound quality and detail. At this time, I am very satisfied with the sound I am getting from my Voigt Pipes, and am not looking to change drivers in the foreseeable future.

I have not considered the Oris horns at all because they do not fit my requirement for single-driver system. Also, I am not a fan of front loaded horns, although I have heard good reports of the Oris not being as "honky" as most. The real disqualifier for them to me, is the multi driver arrangement. Many people feel that the extension into the bottom octave is worth having the crossover and extra drivers in the system. I don't feel that way. I prefer the coherence and point source of a single driver crossoverless system, and am willing to accept the 40Hz lower limit. That is just my personal preference. Nothing is perfect, and I would prefer seamless coherence in 90% of the spectrum, than to sacrifice that to get the lowest 10% of the least used area of the spectrum. Others, no doubt, feel differently. Obviously, I would like to have it all, but that is not possible at this time from a fullrange cone driver. Soundlabs provides single-driver planar that reaches deeply into the bottom octave, but requires a high power amplifier, and this requires a trade-off in that area. I feel that for my needs, which include a very wide variety of music, that the Lowthers with my SET ZOTL 45 amp provides the maximum transparency and coherence for my music, with the least objectionable trade-offs for me. This is considering everything together as a package. To go with any other method, would require either a higher power push-pull amp, or crossovers and multi-drivers, or both. Or possibly even a bi-amp system. All of these alternatives create problems that I consider to be more deleterious to the musical presentation than the lack of 20 cycles of response in the bottom octave. I am getting a very solid 40Hz lower cutoff, and many speakers that claim full range are actually rolling off around there anyway. The vast majority really only will get to the lower 30s, even if they claim lower. When you try to integrate a subwoofer, there are loads of problems that are the subject of endless threads on this forum. So "you pays your money, and you takes your chances" as the carnival barkers say. I'll stick to the path of least interruption and corruption of the signal. If that means I have to give up a few cycles in the bottom end, so be it.

Regarding the Hedlunds, I have the plans on hand to make them, but they are a true rear horn, where the Voigt Pipes are not. Voigt Pipes are a combination of rear horn, transmission line, and bass reflex. This big knock on the Voigt Pipe is the comb-filtering effects created by the interaction of the port and the direct radiating driver. In practice, I have not found this to be a problem in my system. My Pipes are modified for improved wave-launch and acoustical baffle-step compensation. Perhaps this has mitigated the problem, but I don't have any noticeable comb-filtering effects with my system. All systems are a compromise, and I tried to provide the cleanest, most direct signal path that I could, and powered it with a SET OTL amp that is not even available, and had to be custom built by the only person that can build one, David Berning. The match seems to work quite well. If a person wants to modulate the walls with high SPL subsonic bass, then this is not the system to choose. If a person wants to have the least interference and corruption of the musical signal during playback, then this is a very enjoyable route to take. To each his own.
Thanks TWL for such a thorough answer! This looks to be a great forum and site in general. The descriptions of the "immediacy" of the Lowther sound really pique my curiosity. Coherency as well. Though I must admit I like to "modulate the walls" occasionally, I really only enjoy volume when it is very clean, and not continually. Musicality matters more!
Where are plans for the Voight Pipes with modifications available from, or were they your own experiments? Do you recommend a driver that is compatible with the Pipes?
There are no plans available for my mods, but the basic design came from the Lowther Club of Norway design, and that is the best one I know of. To improve wave-launch, and handle the baffle-step problem, I added 12" wide "swinging doors" to each side of the enclosure, which provides acoustical reinforcement using the 1/8th-wave formula down to about 48Hz. Of course the majority of radiation at that frequency and below is out the bottom port, so floor boundary reinforcement picks up to bolster the rest of the way down to the 40Hz lower limit. This eliminated the need for an electronic baffle-step compensating network that would have cut effeciency by 5db, and obstructed the signal path. So instead, I reinforced the freq's below the baffle step point, acoustically, thus retaining efficiency and pure signal path. The "swinging doors" allow them to be angled to the rear, to keep them out of the diffraction plane, and still do their job. It also allows adjustment of the reinforcement, so I can tailor the response to individual recordings as needed, by adjusting the backward angle. This is all just a simple application of known technology, and it works. The trade-off is larger size of the speaker enclosure, and they are quite large in frontal area.

The driver I selected was the new series Lowther EX3, which worked very well in this application. This system provides good bass within its design parameters, but it is not a system for "bass freaks". If you want the "boom boom" then add a subwoofer. Most people who are "bass freaks" will only notice the deeper, more powerful bass, and probably wont't even notice the seams, or phase-shifting, or speed differential non-matching that is introduced. This is because they have always had multi-drivers and this was present in all their previous speakers, so they don't notice any difference. You only notice it, when you started from a single-driver perspective, and then tried to add the bottom end.

This is not a system for everyone. It has ultra-revealing qualities that will let you know everything about what is wrong with your system. In my opinion, transistor amps are not suitable. Only a high quality SET amp using 300B or under, like 2A3 or 45, is correct in this setup. Push-pulls will be revealed as push-pulls. Hums, noises, hash, distortion, record noise, all will be coming right out your speaker if you have any of these noises. Components must be musical and quiet. This means good tube components and great tube selection. Cables, connectors, vibration control products, and everything can be heard easily, and may require some changes. In the end, it will do certain things better than any other system can, and it will have its weaknesses also. It is up to you to decide if this presentation is what you want out of your system.
Hello Everyone,
I have been very persuaded by various comments here on Audiogon that the Lowther driver is the way to go. Has anyone compared the Voigt pipes to any of the other options such as the enclosure designed by Jena Labs? TWL's comments would be very appreciated, since I regard him as our resident expert in these areas. For those of us who will have to have a cabinet maker build these for us, the cost is probably similar for each of the options. Also, how large are the enclosures such as the Voigts? Thanks for such a great thread
Hi Dennis. The Jena labs cabinet designs are some of the relatively newer designs on the Lowther market. The Medallion 2 is sort of like a Lammhorn design, and is good to about 60Hz on the bottom end. True horn designs, whether they be front or rear loaded, are limited by the length, shape, and size of the horn cavity, especially the mouth dimensions. Very low response is generally not achieved by true horns due to overall size considerations that are required for deep bass horns. I have looked at the Medallion 2 cabinet, and it looks like a pretty solid design, and should be quite satisfactory within its design parameters. The Voigt Pipe has a lower cutoff frequency because if its combination design not being a true horn. The transmission line and bass reflex characteristics allow deeper bottom end than most non-corner horn designs for the Lowther. Voigt Pipes are the cheapest and easiest to make, and are probably not the very best enclosure for the Lowther, but they are good. Some commercial designs like the Lammhorn 1.8 or Rethm systems will do better than the Voigt Pipe, but cost far more. I have found that the Voigt Pipes were fine for me, at the money I could spend. The sound is much better than would be expected from something that costs as little as it does. Mine were only about $1500 total including drivers, solid oak cabinets, and hardware. Took about a weekend to build using only a circular saw, jigsaw, hand drill, screwdriver, and glue. I used cabinet grade lumber, so finish sanding and staining was simple. The normal Voigt Pipe(non-folded) is 6 feet tall and has a 1 foot square footprint. Mine have extended sides that are hinged, and protrude out 1 foot on each side, for a total width of 3 feet when the "wings" are fully extended. So a normal Voigt Pipe will be 6' tall and a foot wide, and mine are 6' tall and 3 feet wide. Both are a foot deep. Lowther drivers take a very long time to break-in, and will need at least 100 hours to start "loosening up" and giving better bass. After 500 hours, they are fully broken in. They sound great from the beginning, but get alot better. I think the Hedlund horn is a very nice cabinet, but complex to build. If I had some money and time, I would give them a try myself. But I am quite happy with the Voigt Pipe, even if they are not the "ultimate" design. They will give you plenty of enjoyment and music at reasonable costs. When you read about the Voigt Pipe design, alot of disparaging comments are made about the "comb-filtering" problem, but that never was a problem for me. I think that too much is made of that, and is not really the problem that they make it out to be. If there is a problem with that, it is not noticeable in actual listening, so I don't consider it a problem in real world use. Welcome to the world of single-drivers.
I recently converted to an AER rear-loaded horn speaker (102db). I believe I am getting very good bass down to 40Hz. I also use an Art of Sound Tycus subwoofer to reinforce the bottom end. It is a very quick subwoofer that blends in very well. I have heard a Lowther DX3 speaker that I sounded good but the AER is much smoother. I am using an AER MKII-SP which is especially made to improve the bass in the enclosure I am using. Go to to view the Acoustique speaker which I am using. The AER MKII-SP is around $2500. The sound is very detailed, dynamic, and imaging very three dimensional. Full Range Speakers will provide the plans for the cabinets.
Good luck - lots of choices and lots of info on the web.
Best to listen for yourself. Since you have "broad" musical tastes, which include rock, a Lowther based speaker is not the best choice.

One of the best Lowther speakers I've heard were the Rythyms, which use a modified DX-4. I thought the speakers were hooked up to subwoofers. On the best recorded material it sounded fabulous, but on music with heavy electronic bass or music with many instruments playing simultaneously, things started to unravel. Thin and poorly recorded music were unlistenable.

The Voigt pipes that I've heard did not go down to 40Hz. Or if it did it must have been -9db. The sound was immediate and transparent, albeit with a tizzy treble. I would not build the Voigts without TWL's wings as it addresses the baffle step loss.

Check out the full range driver website and high efficiency speaker forum @ audioasylum.
The only experience I have are with my own Lamhorns with DX-3 Lowthers and a friend's Beauhorns with I believe, EX-4. Both systems have high quality subs. Based on this, I disagree with Ultrakaz' observation that they are not the best choice for rock. Both of these systems are capable of very high SPL and do not "unravel." Quite the opposite.

As for poorly recorded music being unlistenable, you can't have it both ways. If your system hides the flaws in poor recordings it will also hide some of the beauty in good ones. I would rather the best be better and the worst be worse than everything sounding mediocre

I guess if rock was all I wanted then I might go with a multi-driver, mega-watt setup, but Eclectic listens to a wide range of music and I think this is the way to go.

One thing to consider with AER drivers, and the reason I went with Lowthers, is that the AER driver was only available in 16 ohms. Perhaps this has changed since I bought mine, but a 16 ohm speaker limits your choice of amplifiers since many SET amps don't have 16 ohm taps. I had a Wavelength amp at that time with 4 and 8 ohm taps. Gordon Rankin was very adamant about using a matched speaker with his amp to obtain best performance.
Hey, you guys, this is more great information. Thanks, TWL for another detailed answer. Much of the technical stuff is over my head -maddeningly so, because I would like to understand it. But that is just inspiration to pursue an old facination with knowing what makes sound work and read more as I revive my dormant interest in audio. (My live music listening doesn't need reviving, but I don't by any means enjoy live world class music all the time)
I have been reading numerous other interesting posts on the web, regarding horns mostly, and note two Lowther clubs/shops in Canada that for some reason escaped me till now. Looks like a small but growing trend happening with this, including I think, Dgclark above.

Thanks Jimyork, Ultrakaz, Herman for your experiences and opposite speculations on suitability of Lowthers for Rock. All are helpful. I know from the past that different people will listen to Rock on really different systems and prefer it that way--ESL 63 to Klipsch. I will have to find out for myself, and if the back horn/pipe design didn't work, I could keep the drivers and go Oris perhaps. It doesn't seem like the outlay is beyond me for a set of drivers (probably not the top Lowthers or AER--too expensive for now, and a bit much to invest "sound unseen") My tastes are indeed eclectic-recently listened to Ravi Shankar(Inside the Kremlin) with singers, orchestra, and ensemble of traditional Indian instruments, Van Morrison, Oliver Mtukudzi(Zimbabwean music, favorite of Bonnie Raitt) in one evening! Carmina Burana, and Loreena McKennitt not far behind. It would be so much easier to like just one thing, but I could never do that. I would say that midrange quality matters the most to me, transparency and natural timber, but not at the expense of no dynamics, or really limited listening levels. Bass is great, but if you can't have everything.....

Herman, how did the Lamhorn and Beaumarks compare? Does anyone know if either of these designs, or the Carfrae for that matter, are available anywhere, or is that proprietary knowledge a closed door? The cabinetry doesn't throw me off as I have a reasonable wood shop in my basement. Hedlunds are a very esthetically attractive idea, but TWL's Voights perform very satisfyingly to him and seem a better starting point. And who knows, maybe a finishing point!
Some very good points have been brought up, and Herman has pointed out a very important thing about the 16 ohm load on the AER. You have to get a driver with a good match.

As for the Voigt Pipes, what you suggested is exactly what I did with mine. I thought that I should at least get the drivers and start out with an inexpensive enclosure. This would allow me to get my feet wet, and start the lengthy break-in of the drivers right away. I could then evaluate the performance, and if I decided to move to a better cabinet, I could just switch my drivers into them later. I think that this is a good path to take. As it turns out, I have not had the desire to upgrade cabinets yet, but I may do that in the future. But now my drivers are broken-in, and they are sounding good, even in my Pipes. So if and when I decide to make a move to an upscale cabinet, I can start out with the drivers already broken-in, and enjoy the improvement immediately.
Comparing the 2 is very difficult because they are used with completely different electronics, cables, and rooms. That said, they are much more alike than different. Both full range, extremely dynamic, and just a pleasure to listen to. My Lamhorns image better but that could be a matter of setup and/or the rooms.

I had the same problem in that I had no way to hear the different possibilities and I was exploring the DIY route due to limited funds. Luckily, just after I had made the decision to get some type of Lowther/SET setup, I came arross some dealer demo Lamhorns that were not quite the latest version so I got a very good deal and the decision was basically made for me. As you search the various Lowther sites you will see many different cabinet designs and I have no way to guide you to a particular one. I can only vouch for the 2 I have heard and recommend them highly if you have the cash.

I just got a message from an amp designer friend who says he will showing some amps in conjuction with Lowther America at the Stereophile show in June in San Fransisco. That would be a good way to get a taste of what is available.