Grilles or No Grilles

I've always found that 'no grilles' leads to a more accurate listening experience. I've had many different speakers using many different grille cloth and components and always, no grilles works better for me. Often many of my friends find that a WAF means grilles on. What do you think?
I think you cannot generalize.

If the speaker was designed and voiced with the grille cloth on, then it will only be able to perform as intended with the grille cloth on.

If the speaker was designed and voiced with the grille cloth off, then it will only be able to perform as intended with the grille cloth off.

Someone's personal preference is simply a personal preference.

In my experience too - no grilles is always better.
I wish I could say my speakers sound better with the grills on, because they look better that way. But they sound more veiled, which makes sense. As a matter of fact, I'm sure vast majority of the speakers aren't meant to have grills on, it's just that some people might like the way it looks or maybe also to protect the drivers better. I guess though, if the speaker is too aggressive, the grill could tame the sound a bit, which might help.
And equally valid is the psychological effect of removing the grilles and believing, therefore, that the sound was more direct. There's little doubt that the grilles change the sound but it is not universally true that the change is an improvement. See JA's measurements and comments here:

I agree with Kal. It depends on the speaker, as well as listener preference.

Until recently, I never listened to my speakers with the grilles on. Then I tried it as an experiment. As expected, there was a slight diminishment of perceived resolution. But unexpectedly, there was also a slight improvement in imaging and tonal balance. So now it's grilles on (except for the tweeter grille, which remains off).

The moral of the story is that experimentation is the Order of the Day.

My Magnepan have the grills from Hell. They would be a giant pain to remove.. and the result is very ugly!
I used to use B&W 805s and they sounded better with no grill, but looked fine without.
Some speakers ARE really ugly without the cover. Others actually look like some sort of art with no cover.
I had paradigm 60v2's and now the v5's,to me they sound better with the grills off.
So, the grilles off have it! (did I spell grilles right?)
Some loudspeakers are designed for listening with grilles on some with grilles off. Ask your manufacturer.
Grilles on. My Triad speakers are designed that way. The ESP speakers don't have a removable grille. I prefer the look of the N802 with the grilles and have made choices of set up and cabling so configured to sound best (to me) with the grilles in place.
Speakers with Grilles- on. With Grills- off.
Putting grills on some speakers sound almost like putting some cloth between you and the drivers.
My experience is that no grill sounds as good as no grill. I can't see the point of designing a speaker that needs a grill to attenuate the treble. My Mini Utopias came with a wood cover to place over the speaker when moving or storing and no grills; this seems to me to be the best arangement.
So, the grilles off have it!
50,000 Frenchmen can be wrong.
Dealing with this issue now -- as I've come to accept that my speakers sound better with grills off, but look much better with them on. Argh...

I just submitted a thread proposal on professional speaker re-grilling, as I would like to re-grill them with more acoustically transparent material. Anyone know of a company that does this?
The foam grills like the ones JBL used years ago were suppose to be the most transparent; you could probably make some [or have them made] if the appearence appealed to you. Many speakers now are designed to look good nude, with the front finished to match the rest of the speaker.
My Frazier Concertos had similar foam grills. They were the closest to acoustically transparent as you will find.
My Infity Kappa 9 sound just fine with the grilles on and I could not not detect any difference with the grilles removed, so I leave the grilles on them all the time. However my Infinity IRS Betas have always been played naked. Every display that I've ever seen show the Betas without grilles. I think I put the grilles on them once just to see what it looked dice, naked is the only way to fly with the Betas.
The grills on my Egglestons were very transparent - both aesthetically and sonically. I heard no difference. It was a very elegant design (super thin, sheer) and I could actually still see the drivers when the grill were on, so I kept them on. My new speakers don't come with grills.
Vandersteen speakers not only sound better with grills they measure better. Any one who thinks they can hear a very sheer double knit grill double blind is most likely hearing the diffraction caused by improper grill frame design. Many of the worlds most expensive tweeters use wire mesh or fabric for protection without sonic effect.
Thanks Johnnyr
If a speaker comes with a grill its made to be used with one, in this insane anal hobby if a maker didnt think it was a good idea he simply wouldnt offer it OR he would sell it as an option....grills on, they look and sound better. As a closer if Johnnyr tells you sometihng you can be pretty confident its the truth.
And for those who say its there for protection and not sound I can name many turntables that come with no cover and are all things considered much more vulnerable to damage.
I have never heard a speaker that did not sound better with the grills off. However, some speakers look "but ugly" with the grills off.
Orpheus10 wrote:
I have never heard a speaker that did not sound better with the grills off.
I have heard speakers that are better with them off and speakers that are better with them on. It really is not something that one should make a blanket statement about unless one has heard them all.

How they look with the grilles on or off is another matter.

Interestingly enough I had planned to leave the grills off as I liked the look better. I could hear a slight difference on some but not all recordings. Figured the wife would want them on so I never really planned on arguing the matter. I go to put the on and the wife stops me. Says she was playing with it after cleaning and decided she liked it better with grills off. felt it was clearer at the high end. um, OK. cool. Never mentioned it to her or anything. who'd have thunk? Now she wants me to not put my guitar behind the speaker as it sounds "funny" when I put it there. May have created a monster with good ears.
Kal, it is not a blanket statement to say that you had never heard a speaker that didn't sound better with the grills off, that is a statement about what you have heard. A blanket statement would be "all speakers sound better with the grills off". The first statement is about what you have heard personally, the second about all possible speakers.
Many manufacturers who supply grills with their speakers recommend listening with grills off, at least for "serious listening". I would venture that many feel it's a given that their customers will take them off.
Most box speakers, say 30 years ago, had recessed baffles and the grill frame and cloth would fit in to be flush with the front. Most did not have flush mounted drivers. Now, almost all speakers have at least flush mounted tweeters, flat baffles, sometimes beveled or rounded edges. Most grill frames are a compromise.
Ok, some designers spend great effort on the grill design and intend you to leave them on, but they are few.

I know what you are saying but, in the context of this thread, it seems that most people are generalizing and, unfortunately, I took your statement as an example.

Of course, the original post is a little confusing as it refers first to "a more accurate listening experience" (without specifying how accuracy is determined) and, then, refers to what "works better for me" which is a matter of preference. Yet, the OP is asking "what do you think?"

What is more accurate is measurable and has been.
What is preferred may be something else, of course.

At the latest RMAF, I would say that in the neighborhood of 90 percent of the speakers there were presented with the grills off. This was irregardless of whether they came with a grill or not. There were some exceptions. I have previously owned a pair of speakers, the Intuitive Design Summit, that had grills that could not be removed and they sounded fantastic. Just because it came with a grill does not mean it must be listened to that way. At least that was the only thing I could infer based on what dealers, distributors, and designers had set up at the show. I would hope that they would know how to get the best out of their speakers. As a last comment on this, I agree that the issue of grills or no grills is a preference for the most part. If you want to know what is intended by the designer, call the manufacturer and ask how they are voiced.
Ah yes, one of my favorite standards from the 40's.

"Grille Of My Dreams".
Part of why speakers have no grills on at a show is so you can see the drivers, it isnt really about the sound all together...............its marketing.
....or maybe manufacturers provide the grills for aesthetics, so the drivers don't stare at you when you're not doing "serious listening" and better integrate with room's marketing.

Ah yes, one of my favorite standards from the 40's.

"Grille Of My Dreams".
Audiofeil (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

Damn, you're old.
Kr4 - If the speaker was designed and voiced with the grille cloth on, then it will only be able to perform as intended with the grille cloth on.

Indeed. Example Harbeth - grills on.
Airegin: I fully agree and that is the point I was trying to make in my first post.

I started a thread elsewhere re: re-grilling speaker grills. My issue is that, while my current speakers sound better sans-grills, IMO, they are butt-ugly without them (Hyperion 938). So I ended up buying some very acoustically transparent grill cloth from Meniscus Audio and had an auto upholstery shop re-grill them. Win-win.

In general however, all speakers I've owned, including my current ones, sound better without grills.
Interesting thread but let me add a technical explanation.

A grill will reduce somewhat the high frequencies (around 0.1 to 0.5 dB max) - not worth worrying about really.

Another factor is vibration - when playing loud and pumping loads of air it is possible to make some grills vibrate audibly (as can your furniture and many other things in the room) - again probably not worth worrying about.

Thirdly, some speakers have very sharp corners (which cause edge diffraction) and the grills may be specifically designed to fit snugly over the baffle and reduce edge diffraction by making a smooth transition to the speaker sides. In this case it is important to keep the grills on.

Finally, with the grills removed, the tweeters, woofer and reflex port are exposed and it is extremely tempting to touch or poke these; and the grills offer some essential protection even if they can still be penetrated by hard objects.
Yea, I have always been under the assumption that grilles are for protection and aesthetic reasons.

Although, before I ever got into this crazy hobby, I NEVER removed the grilles. lol
I have generally preferred the sound with grilles off, even when the manual suggested keeping them on, and even though I prefer the protection and look of having them on. The metal ones seem to protect the best and sound the worst. There are exceptions, though. As others have said, you gotta listen.
I always prefer grills.
Girls are great to have around but for serious lisening sessions they can be a distraction, they may want to chat while you are trying to listen to the music. I agree, No girls does add to " a more accurate listening experience".
IMHO, Kr4 and Shadorne got it right. IME, speakers usually sound better without grills, either because of vibrations or frame diffraction, but I have heard exceptions. For example the Thiel C2's grill was in essence an extension of the baffle, contributing to smoother less abrupt diffraction.