Calling all Horn lovers

What is it that love about this type of speaker? Why would you recommend them?
What do you like the most and the least about your horns? Thanks in advance for any and all responses.
Dynamics and that "jump" factor are two big reasons for me. When it all comes together, they just sound more real than other speakers.

I agree with Shakeydeal. After listening to horns, there are few speakers that I find have sufficient dynamic headroom. They give you the feeling that the sky is the limit dynamically; but of course, if the recording is compressed, it still sounds compressed. They can't create dynamic range, just reproduce it. The other part that I like is the speed. There is no sense of sluggishness.
What I like least about mine is the limited top end. I would love to add a pair of Townshend supertweeters. I think it would be amazing. Saving my pennies...
1. Extremely low distortion at the same SPL as other speaker types
2. Very realistic dynamics at both the loud and soft ends, and the loud can be achieved with a very low powered amp, too
3. Clarity, and great transient response, and accurate reproduction of subtle differences in timbre
4. They direct the sound where you want it to go, and keep it from going where you don't.
5. Placement is much easier than other speaker types, which can be much more fussy
6. Easier to drive - you can drive them with pretty much any amp you want
7. Very life-like presentation - you can feel the music

About the only negative I can think of is their size, if your room is small.

What speakers do you have?

I don't currently have horn speakers in my system but I agree with the
comments made so far. When 'done right' a horn can be very realistic and
natural. A poorly executed horn speaker can sound disappointing. I love
the fact that they allow the use of really good but low power amplifiers.

I'd rather have that combination than the popular alternative of lower
efficiency speaker driven by a high power muscle amplifer. Lower power
tube amps (high quality) just sound better to me .
A couple of things to be careful about, though, before introducing horn speakers into your system:

1)Hiss, hum, or other noise that may be generated or picked up at points in the system that are downstream of the volume control will be reproduced at much higher levels than with most other speakers, due to the high efficiency of horns. So you need a quiet amplifier and preamp, and no ground loop issues between those two components.

2)If the overall gain structure of the electronics in your system is on the high side you may find yourself having to operate the volume control undesirably close to the bottom of its range, especially with digital sources.

-- Al
Yes, with the right tubes and room, you are in sonic bliss. Miss my K-Horns and Belle center. First heard the k-Horn, mono, in fifty seven, at the Electronic Workshop in the Village, driven my a Mac. Paul was right, only horns can do justice to music, any type.
I use as my primary speakers (I have others) a pair of Klipsch Epic CF-4 (series 1). I have slightly modified them by damping the shell of the horns, as well as some bleckhole 5 inside the large cabinet. I am a former owner of K-horns many years ago, and have been through several small Pro-Acs, 2 Large Spendors, Dahlquists,Focus Audio, TDLs etc.
I liked them all for different reasons, and actually bought these never thinking they would be as good as they are.
For me, it is the nuance, timbre and dynamic ease that win me over. A certain immediacy that sounds more lifelike than others that I have owned, even though I have fond memories of the Spendor SP100 in particular. Compared with horns, they are dynamically restrained and subjectively "slow" sounding.
I know that some people consider horns harsh and shouty, and I'm certain that there are some that are, but mine are not. In many ways, these Epics are more even handed than the K-horns, especially regarding coherence, since most of the music is coming from a large horn in the center of 2 twelve inch woofers. The trade-off is that the 2 inch compression driver will not reach the treble stratosphere, which is why I want Townshend supertweeters when I can afford them. I am still very happy without them though.
Horns, for me, recreate "live" better than anything else.

I have pair of Bob Crites Cornscala "C" version. I am very impressed with the Selenium D220TI tweeter he uses. After extended listening I feel as though the highs in this speaker are every bit as good as my old Grand Veenas with the Murata supertweeter. Delicate, extended and airy.

Let's first acknowledge that it's hard to generalize about the sound of speaker types. There is a wide variety of horn speakers just like there is a wide variety of cone speakers and electrostats. That out of the way, the single most compelling quality of horns, done right, is dynamics. As a class, horn speakers have more sudden starts and stops to music than do cones or electrostats. This natural ebb and flow of dynamics can allow horns to sound more real and more lifelike than other types.

The difficulty is achieving this unique dynamic ability without giving up some other qualities that cone speakers seem to achieve without difficulty. For example, some people, myself included, are very sensitive to horn colorations like a "shout" or glare. Nearly all direct radiation horns seem to suffer from this to one degree or another. In addition, it can be difficult to mate a horn to other types of drivers. Achieving a smooth, coherent blend of drivers is more difficult when one of the drivers is a horn.

I am fortunate to have a set of speakers that thread the needle between capturing horn dynamics without sounding like a horn. My speakers are a 2-way inspired by the Western Electric 753 monitor speakers. They use a horn from 1200 Hz on up and a 15" dynamic woofer in a bass reflex cabinet. The horn is fairly compact but it is unusual by not having direct radiation. The horn is actually bent into a 90 degree right angle; the horn exits on the front panel just above the woofer but the compression driver inside is pointing upwards. I don't know how much the shape of the horn accounts for the resulting sound quality, but I do know that this arrangement does not have the dreaded horn "shout" or any other colorations that to my ears identify it as a horn. In fact, the horn blends so well with the 15" paper cone woofer that it sounds more coherent than any other all-dynamic multi-way speaker I have used. The tradeoff is that my speaker does not have quite the most dynamics or the largest soundstage of some other horns. For example, I heard a 3-way consisting of a Western Electric 22 horn with 555 driver, a 15" woofer similar to mine in a large sealed cabinet, and a Jensen 302 horn tweeter on top. The dynamics on this speaker were noticeably more dramatic than on mine, and it was also more detailed and more spacious. All very good things, but....the WE setup was not as coherent as mine in any of the 3 aspects of coherency that are important to me--- tonal balance, dynamics and soundstaging. The 3 drivers in the WE speaker all sounded different from one another, and the resulting sound while uniquely impressive in many respects was actually less satisfying overall than my own speakers. So it all comes down to finding the right compromise for a given listener.
I too love the extraordinary dynamic quality of good horn systems, particularly when such systems are played at low volume levels. But, MOST do have issues with a peaky tonal balance and the tendency to "shout." But, the rare examples of good horn systems is quite magical.

I spent this past Friday evening listening to a system that uses a Western Electric 555 driver mounted on a HUGE Western Electric 15A horn (5'x 5' mouth). Putting a speaker system like this in your living room is like standing two Smart Cars up on their bumpers. The twin woofers in each of the horn-loaded woofer cabinets looked tiny, though I was told they were 18" woofers. This was an unbelievably realistic sounding system, particularly when played not too loud (it actually cannot be played very loud because the 555 driver is being played full range, with no crossover on it at all). I have listened to this system a lot before, but, on this night a Tungar tube power supply was energizing the fieldcoil 555 drivers and the system sounded much better being run this way than with a solid state power supply.

I have a much more modest system, with just a horn-based midrange. The woofers are modern paper cone 12" drivers (two per channel) in an onken bass reflex cabinet, the tweeters are modern Fostex bullet tweeters. The midrange, which is the heart of this system is ancient (probably late 1930s). They are Western Electric 713b drivers feeding Western 12025 metal horns that are mounted on top of the woofer cabinet in free air. The tweeters are likewise mounted with no baffle just under the midrange horns. I like the sound very much, particularly at lower volumes, though this system does not have the shear majestry of the 15A horn-based system.

Was the 15a system at DejaVu or a private home? I have read about the 15a on the long thread on Lencoheaven, and it seems everyone agrees it is truly magical.
I would just add to the characteristically excellent posts by Larry and Salectric that desirable 1930s Western Electric drivers go for EXTREMELY high prices on the rare occasions when they appear for sale. And with good reason, I would expect, although I've never heard any of them.

-- Al
"So it all comes down to finding the right compromise for a given listener."

Very well put. And that, dear reader, is really what it's all about.

Vu has a "club" located offsite from the store. The club includes three separate listening rooms, plus an area where they do construction projects. The 15A is in the main listening room which is something like 20' x 25'. It is in the "club" because a purchaser of the system had it installed in his listening room for a single afternoon (after the wife saw it, it was no longer welcome).
Shakeydeal, our speaker preferences are similar. If I could ask, why did you pick Bob's C model Cornscala rather than one of the other models? I'm thinking of replacing my Cornwall III's with one of his other offerings. Would appreciate your thoughts. For Bander, I grew up with horn loaded speakers and love the accuracy, dynamics and "live" music quality, as many other musicians do as well. Quality, of course, varies as does taste so careful selection is important.
The worst cone speakers are horrible. There are cones that seem like they will loosen my fillings in my teeth. The worst panel speakers are horrible. The worst horn speakers are horrible Generalizations are nearly useless.

But the best horn speakers are sublime. Horns are capable of a wonderful combination of sweetness, ease, coherency, power, dynamics. You should try to find some great horns to listen to.

Now, in my "top 5 speakers ever" list is a wonderful dynamic speaker. Unfortunately, it is very inefficient to drive. But my point is that generalizations are flawed.

Now, for MY money, considering the above listed attributes of horns, plus typically good efficiency, more of my favorite speakers are indeed horns, so I would suggest listing to some.

Something I can categorically state is that the prejudice against horns in the Western press and, as a result, Western audiophile circles, is ridiculous and completely misleading.

Seek some out. Go to some shows. Then YOU tell US.
I went with the C version because of the better dispersion of the tweeter. My room isn't huge, but it is bigger than some. I am glad I did, because I think this Selenium tweeter is excellent.

but I do know that this arrangement does not have the dreaded horn "shout" or any other colorations that to my ears identify it as a horn.

IME this is the result of using the wrong kind of amplifier on the horn, rather than something inherent in the horn itself. Most older horn designs have crossovers that are not designed to work with amplifiers with lots of negative feedback (low output impedance); this results in crossover errors when such amplifiers are used. The result is that the horn may be playing information out of its proper passband! *That* is where that honky shouty horn reputation comes from. for more info see:
Shakey - Thanks!! I gotta assume that the C version also does well with the initial reason for the Cornscala - the expanded midrange of the Lascala paired with the deeper bass of the Cornwall. (All versions should do that). Will check out the C version more closely.

It may be the case that some of the characteristic horn coloration and "shout" has to do with crossover/amp compatibility, but, clearly, some of it has to do with characteristics of horn reproduction itself. I have heard big changes in sound from use of different damping material on the exterior and interior of the horn itself. Also, the same driver used on different types of horns can deliver completely different sound.

I also suspect that, to some extent, it is the midrange peak of typical horns that, to some extent, creates the impression of great dynamics and liveliness. Those horn systems where such peaks are tamed and tonal balance is actually quite decent also tend to sound a bit less lively.
I have never heard Lascalas, but I can hear how they improve on the Cornwalls.

What version are you going with?

BTW, Bob is a great guy to deal with.

Larry, WRONG! The distortions do not have to be there, they are very avoidable with good throat design, good phase plug design, and good horn design in both shape and materials. It is not "characteristic" in general, it is characteristic of flawed design.

And flawed design is not why horns are often very dynamic. That comes from very low excursion, resultant great linearity, and the fact that the horn is an acoustic transformer, matching the impedance of the driver and the air.

I wish I could say the number of folks who have heard horns in my place and said "that's the most sweet gentle, subtle, yet most powerful system I've heard".
Atma, some of that sound has to do with poor horn design. I have had them, and your amp does not fix poor horn/throat/phase plug design, no more than they fix poor cone speakers or poor electrostatics. Like stupid, for which there is no cure, poor driver design has no cure.
Hi Kiddman,
What horn speakers and amplifier are you using? Seems you have a very good match.

I have heard a LOT of different horn-based speakers. NONE were entirely free of some unnatural tonal coloration. But, that is the case with ALL other forms of speakers I've heard. I live with a horn-based system because, balancing all strengths and weaknesses, I prize what good horn systems can do. My horn-based midrange is very good, in terms of tonal quality and a lack of midrange peak or "shout" when played at lower volume, but, it does develop that quality to some extent when pushed a bit loud. Again, not perfect, but, on balance VERY good.

Perhaps you can enlighten us on what are some of the better designed drivers/horn combinations?

By the way, it is not only horn-based systems that can deliver amazing dynamics and presence that creates an almost "live" performance. I have heard that with both modern and antique fieldcoil drivers in non-horn systems too.
Shakey ... not sure which version. I plan on calling Bob and picking his brain on the merits of each 3 way version. Thanks again for sharing. Chuck
Playing music through very high efficiency horns is the musical equivalent of looking through a microscope. Every minute detail will be more apparent, be it the music, noise, whatever. So lots of tweaks both large and small in scope may be needed to get things just right. I have heard a few horn based systems get it mostly right, and they are quite impressive! But not for those who just want to put something in place easily and be done with it in order to just spend time listening.

Expectations for horns these days with "high end" home audio users are much different than when they were first conceived out of necessity many years ago in the early days of "home" audio.

Due to their efficiency, horns are still a necessity for many commercial audio applications in larger venues. However higher efficiency and higher quality Class D amps impact even that these days. My gym uses commercial horn loaded speakers and newer commercial Class D amps for their group exercise programs. The horns are overkill IMHO for this application even in that the highly efficient and compact Class D amps do not require or even benefit from horn loaded speakers as did their earlier larger and less efficient Class A/B predecessors.

So horns are not for the faint of heart, but personally I still love them and would love to own a good pair someday.
Kiddman, I agree that if there is a problem in the design you will have anomalies, just like you do with any other speaker.

If the horn design is correct however, it can be one of the lowest distortion loudspeaker applications out there. So with this understanding, my comments above were concerning operation with properly designed and built systems.
Review of the Briton II horn loudspeaker
"And flawed design is not why horns are often very dynamic. That comes from very low excursion, resultant great linearity, and the fact that the horn is an acoustic transformer, matching the impedance of the driver and the air."

Kiddman is correct. The pecieved dynamics of horn speakers is not an illusion caused by frequency peaks in the midrange.

That said, there are cone speakers with great dynamics, and Charles1dad, you have one of them. I remember hearing the Total Eclipses at a show years ago, and they have amazing dynamics. I should have bought them then, but I got sidetracked and stupidly bought a speaker I had never heard based on reviews. Anyway, you have a great speaker.
Also note that good full range hi efficiency horn systems will tend to be large and often quite expensive. But if you have the room to set them up well and the patience needed to get things integrated and set up just right, they are one of the ultimate and most unique statements, FWIW, that can be made in High end audio IMHO.
Yes, horns are very low in distortion because of the very small excursion required to produce a lot of sound. But, there is no way of getting around the effects of reflection/interference within the throat and flaring sides of the horn, as well as the effects of the horn itself being energized and resonating. It is not simply a matter of treating these things as "bad" and trying to minimize the effect; the "art" is in making these effects work to produce the kind of sound one wants. If it were simply a matter of reducing these effects, such as preventing the horn itself from resonating, proper design would be easier. But, I have heard various attempts to heavily dampen certain horns that were completely disappointing. These things have to be "tuned" -- meaning resonance and coloration have to be made to work in harmony with the sound one is trying to achieve, just trying to minimize resonance does not work.

Yes, I was speculating that, perhaps, some of the perceived dynamics is a product of peaky frequency response. That is not to say that horns have to be peaky to sound dynamic--all good horn systems sound more dynamic than most other types of systems. This was just my observation that some of the more musically balanced and least colored systems that I've heard, such as a well set up Edgarhorn system, were also on the dynamically tamer side of the horn family. The most dynamic and lively systems I've heard were actually not horn systems but systems with full-range drivers on open baffles, and these have WILDLY skewed and peaky frequency responses--hence, part of my reason for suspecting that tonal balance is involved.

I agree that the better horn systems are, unfortunately, huge in size. The best that I've heard generally had extremely long throats and very large openings. This allows the midrange horn to operate down to quite a low frequency (the bulk of the music will be produced by a single driver, which minimizes the impact of the crossover on the sound). I wish I had the room for such a system. The other "problem" with horn systems is the difficulty in blending any woofer with a horn midrange. Most woofer/loading schemes either don't quite sound like they are matching the clarity and "speed" of the midrange, or they don't actually go very deep if they do seem agile enough. I personally prefer more agile and less extension, but, there is some sacrifice involved.

But, even though most of the "best" I heard were huge in size, some smaller systems do remarkably well. Old examples include Western Electric 753 systems, some "newer" systems include the Tannoy Westminster (yes, it is "small" by horn standards."
That's an astute observation of the Total Eclipse speaker. It has many of
the desirable characteristics of a good horn,presence, dynamics, scale and
immediacy without the size and bass integration considerations. Still I
believe that a well implemented horn speaker would make me just as happy
driven by my SET amplifier. It's hard to argue against the concept and
practical advantages of high efficiency, high load impedance speaker
designs .

I agree completely with Larryi's comments. Although my experience with horns is not as extensive as his, what I have heard matches his descriptions to a T. In particular, efforts to damp the sides of a horn to make them less resonant simply create other problems. Part of the art behind a successful horn is incorporating its colorations in a way that is consonant with the music rather than at odds with it.

I also noted Larry's observation that "some of the more musically balanced and least colored systems...were also on the dynamically tamer side of the horn family." That is consistent with my earlier description of my 2-way speaker compared to the much more ambitious Western Electric 3-way. Perhaps because my speaker does not aim as high, its failings are less bothersome.

I continue to think that bent horns are somehow less prone to a shouting coloration than horns where the driver can radiate directly through the horn. For example, Larry's WE 12025 horn has a 90 degree right angle bend as does my Altec 32 horn, and they are both very smooth sounding.

Lastly, I agree with some of the other posts above that certain cone speakers are capable of dynamics exceeding the norm. Over the years, I've found that speakers that are run fullrange, i.e. without any electrical rolloffs, can sound more dynamic and more lifelike. For example, some vintage 2-ways like the Fulton FMI-80 and Dyna A-25 used an 8" cone woofer without any crossover. The woofer had a natural rolloff in the highs that allowed it to blend nicely with the tweeter. The only crossover component was a capacitor on the tweeter. Of course, the Alnico magnets may have helped as well.
I think you're on to something in that very simple/ minimalist crossover designs in some cone speakers could be a factor/ contributor to their favorable horn like qualities. It would seem that less complexity may result in a more dynamic and natural presentation. Perhaps fewer parts =less alteration to the audio signal propagation?
I made the jump to horns about 7 or so years ago, after 3 decades of electrostats. Great dynamics, and 'jump' (as mentioned) with the same level of openness and transparency as the stats. Getting the associated equipment right was key to making them work, partly because of the noise level of some of the components I used with less efficient speakers, and partly due to gear synergies. With the Lamm ML2, my Avantgardes really started to make music. Improving/changing gear further upstream also seemed to improve the integration between the horn mid and dynamic self-powered woofers, which was originally one of the shortcomings, at least in my set-up.(I would love to have a full-on horn system, with horn woofers.) One of the things I like about the Avantgarde is that is no crossover between the amp and the midrange horn.

With everything 'just so' the performers are much more 'in the room' and the issue of 'imaging' or 'soundstage' is less of a factor, so this is a huge plus, overall; system or AC noise and sorting out associated equipment, at least for my rig, was the negative, as was integration between bass and mids, but I've managed to get the system to a level that is now extremely enjoyable, very vivid, tonally rich and not strident. Of course, part of that also depends on the source material, but as the system has improved, I'm able to enjoy a wider range of material- some of it isn't 'demo' quality, but I'm far more engaged in the music, which is what it is ultimately about.
PS I still have all my old electrostats, ribbon tweets, and other vintage stuff, and will probably get all that restored at some point for a vintage system or two.
PPS I've heard people snark about how nasty horns can sound, and they can, if not set up right and used with the gear that brings out their best.

Beautiful system and room you have, I'm sure it sounds fantastic.

There are many products that are a bag of mixed compromises to come out with a semblance of neutrality. These "band-aid" products never can be as good as a design that does not use matching colorations to cover up errors (or compromises) in design, as each resonance or distorion destroys detail which can never be recovered. Only the tonal balance can be brought to a more realistic balance, the lost transparency and detail is lost forever.

This is the type of product an above poster is referring to when he says "Part of the art behind a successful horn is incorporating its colorations in a way that is consonant with the music rather than at odds with it."

He should have said "part of the art behind salvaging a flawed design and making it sound OK is odds with it."

There are horns whose diaphragms are under control, whose throat design is good, whose phase plug really works with the design, and whose horn is correct for the frequency range and is non-resonant. These designs measure very low in distortion and need no band-aids such as the poster describes.

So many posts like that are garage pontification by guys who are not designers, who do not know the physics and math, who don't design high performance products, who don't have a multi-decade background of cause/effect experience by testing their own designs as well as those of others to go with their physics or engineering background, yet write as if they do know it all. And their posted information is very misleading, although their original intent may be good.

Proper horn drivers can be exceedingly low in distortion, and as a result sound sweet, smooth, yet highly detailed and dynamic. Playing around with some putty on Klipsches and making category-wide statements proves nothing. It's merely anecdotal at best, pertaining to a limited number of speakers that are far from state of the art.

Get a good listen to some really well done TAD systems, Tannoy studio monitors, JBL Everests, JBL 1400, Classic Audio Reproduction, Magico horns and you'll hear a wide variety of sound whose traits don't conform to the type of horn colorations that a couple of posters are saying are a fundamental trait of the driver type. These claims are not true. Note that Klipsch is not on the list. I don't want to offend Klipsch lovers, they do have their strengths. And the mix/match game might be able to achieve a nice sound. But most folks' gut feel about horns comes from experience with Klipsch or Avant Garde being driven by solid state, or from lousy, over-driven horn PA systems.

I have no monetary connection with horns, I don't sell them, I own some very expensive non-horn speakers, my list of 5 best speakers on the market include some non-horn designs.

Rather, I'm interested in super high end reproduction from any type speaker, and getting good information out there.


I was one of the devout anti-horn guys and it was a lowly Klipsch that opened my mind to the possibilities. All it took was a pair of Cornwalls to unseat my Reference 3a Grand Veenas. And six months ago you couldn't make me believe I would give them up for anything.


I have heard everything on your list, with the exception of the Magico horn, and I agree that these are well designed systems. But, entirely free of tonal coloration? No, they all have their characteristic sound. With the Classic Audio gear, I like both the reproduction gear and their modern fieldcoil designs. I think that we disagree more in terms of degree than anything else.

It is also, to some extent a matter of taste. While I really like the speakers mentioned, I have my own particular preference, which is for a bit warmer sound and less of a hard edge to the initial attack of the note than speakers like the Everest and most of the TAD drivers. You are correct that these speakers do not have the characteristic horn-type colorations (honky, or upper midrange peak, or shouty quality), but, they do have their own characteristic sound, like all speakers. I have not heard these in my own system, but, I know I could easily live with any of them and could probably tune the system to better fit my own preference.

I do think you have made a very good point that there are horn systems with quite a different set of characteristics than what is considered the weakness of horn systems. To say that "proper" horn systems "sound sweet, smooth yet detailed and dynamic" is something we agree on. The difference we have is on a matter of degree and what constitutes the best balance of various characteristics. That is where the "art" comes into play--good engineering gets one most of the way, but, tuning a system, even if that means deviating from supposed technically correct approach, is important for that last measure.

I will probably never have a chance to hear the Magico horns. If you have personal experience with them, I would welcome a brief description of their sound, particularly, how they differ from the sound of Magico's conventional dynamic speakers (a sound I particularly hate--very dry and brittle sounding).
Kiddman: perhaps you were being politic by not lumping the Avantgarde in
with the Klipsch in terms of proper design, but over the years of improving
associated equipment, the overall performance has markedly improved. I
also find that the source material itself plays a role. For example, Chris
Bellman's remaster for Classic Records of Neil Young's Greatest Hits has
some tracks from the album Harvest. Those tend toward the strident at
times, but a first pressing of Harvest doesn't 'bite' the way the Classic
remastered version does (which sounds 'fiddled with' in other respects,
bumped up bass and splashy highs, but a certain ''thinness" in the
mids). Perhaps I'm just hearing coloration on coloration (i.e., some
complain that the original Harvest sounds 'congested') but much sonic
improvement resulted from changes in associated equipment and it wasn't
simply a matter of going from a mediocre line stage or phono stage to a
great one- more of a 'lateral' change, but one that seemed to bring out the
best in the Avantgarde. (Not being defensive about those in the least,
would love to make room at some point for some vintage WE, or at least
the big Tannoys). I did hear the JBL K2 with a small Viva amp some years
ago, using my turntable, and it was marvelous.
Are you in the industry? You said you don't sell any horns, but I could read
your statement to suggest that you do sell other products. BTW, no garage
pontification on my part- I don't pretend to know more than my actual
experience. FWIW, i think you came off a bit harsh, but part of that may
simply be the nature of the written statement.
bill hart
PS: Shakey- thanks for the kudos- what's nice is that I'm not as caught up
in the gear at the moment and having great fun listening to music. I've been
spending a huge amount of time tracking down old pressings- and learning
a lot.
Larryi and Kidmann,
I appreciate both of your informative comments and perspectives. Larry I've heard about a half dozen Magico speaker(various models) demonstrations and have to say our impressions of their sound is very

As the author of the "garage pontification" you object to, I suppose I should respond. One of the drawbacks of this type of forum is that we don't really know each other. Sure, we may get some feel for how people think through their written posts, but we don't really know much about each other's background or abilities. I think that if you knew more about me and the many years that I have spent designing and building speakers and tube electronics, you might have used different language, but perhaps not. It does appear that you have greater faith in "good" engineering than I. In my experience, good engineering is a necessary starting point but what distinguishes a good from a great sounding component is the musical sensitivity of its designer. That is what I call the "art" in design.

Now I need to get back to my garage.
"In my experience, good engineering is a necessary starting point but what distinguishes a good from a great sounding component is the musical sensitivity of its designer."

Based on my experiences, I think there is a lot of truth to that when applied to speaker design in particular.

In addition to being MIT educated, the guy who designs my favorite speakers also runs an arts coalition in NYC and has indicated that he "voices" his speakers using what he hears in Carnegie Hall as a reference.

I've been to Carnegie Hall, and what I've heard there did in fact remind me a lot of what I hear at home (but on a larger scale, of course).
No time to respond now, I have to handle some real business things. But I will say that Sal, you wrote a nice respectful post for someone who is no doubt annoyed at me. I like that restraint and maturity.

I would have you over to hear some horns that do not bite, honk, shout, spit, or hurt, even with high powered solid state. Send me a pm about what part of the country you are in (if in USA at all).
Very good. It took a while but glad to see JBL mentioned. I'm off! The cabs to my new 4345's with Heartsfield mid-range and 2206 mid-bass are being built in somebody 'else's' garage.
My own fondness for waveguide-style constant-directivity horns is largely because of the radiation pattern control that format offers. I believe that the reverberant field plays a much larger role in perception than it is normally given credit for, and a good constant-directivity horn-based system offers an imo elegant way to do a good job with the reverberant field.

The dynamic contrast and liveliness, particularly at low levels, are icing on the cake to me... the radiation pattern control is the cake, because the reverberant field has a strong influence on the tonal balance of the system, and imo a good tonal balance is among the most fundamental requirements of a high-end loudspeaker. Unfortunately it is poor tonal balance (honk or harshness) that has prejudiced many people against horns, based on a listen to an inadequately-engineered system. I've been fortunate enough to win over a few avowed horn-haters, who apparently hadn't heard what the format has to offer when done with care.

Another major advantage of a good horn system is its compatibility with specialty tube amps (OTL, SET). These are the best-sounding amplifiers made, assuming a compatible loudspeaker system, and a good horn system will offer the efficiency and tube-friendly impedance curve that such amplifiers are looking for.

All horns are not created equal of course, and regardless of the type of horn used, a premium is placed on doing a good job with the crossover... as a bad horn system can be really, really bad. I utterly failed at my first attempts to design a crossover for a horn system, and had to learn from a couple of masters in the field (Wayne Parham and Earl Geddes) before I could even begin to do an acceptable job.

IME one of the most important set up requirements for horns is the distance between the horns and the listener. Much more critical, to my ears, than with any other speaker types. I am not saying this is not critical with all other types of speakers, as it is, along with all other set up requirements. To these ears, anyway. MrD.