High-Efficiency Single Driver Speaker System

For those of you who have gone to the 'Dark-side'---a high-efficiency single driver system and never looked back, I'd like to get your feedback on two specific things: 1)What type of music do you mostly listen to, and 2)What do you find are the most appealing characteristics that you find lacking in more traditional lower efficient, high power amplifier-based system. I currently have a custom EL34 JWN customized amp rated around 35-45 watts and I'm thinking about going this route.
One of my three primary systems is, as you say, of the "Dark-side" It includes Auditorium-23 Solovox Hommage speakers, a Shindo Masseto preamp, Wavelength Cardinal mono-block amplification, and multiple digital and analog sources. I use this system mostly for listening to solo vocals, solo instrumentals (especially acoustic), small ensemble classical, jazz, and blues, and small-scale orchestral works. The Solovox speakers disappear like no other speaker I have ever heard. The Solovox's PHY-HP driver is a magical gem of a driver. Even after nearly three years now, I continue to be amazed at this system's capacity for allowing me to believe (almost) that the musicians are in the room with me.
1)What type of music do you mostly listen to, and 2)What do you find are the most appealing characteristics that you find lacking in more traditional lower efficient, high power amplifier-based system
1.) Jazz, Blues, Rock, Bluegrass/Folk,Classical, New Age in that order.
2.) Coherence, micro-dynamic expression, transparency, tonal density (harmonic resolution), and macrodynamic resolution (congestion/compression during more complicated music).

Bottom line for me is that the high efficiency crossoverless speakers I've changed to sound more real to me and are far far far more emotionally engaging. Sounds like you have a good amp to mate with one.
As for me.... I am a huge fan of crossover less speakers, ever since I owned the Eggleston Andra I speakers. Now I have transitioned to the "high efficiency" crossoverless speakers (I have the Zu Essence and the Tekton Lores), and there is no going back! I agree 100% with what German says about the sound above...

I listen to Blues, Classic Rock, Jazz, and some Folk, and I have a real penchant for all things guitar, piano, and vocals.

In addition to above, these single driver speakers have a speed about them that makes everything sound so real, and less electronic (with the right amp of course (SETs for example, but also well executed push pulls using EL84s or EL34s, which are my preferences).
Germanboxers really said it all in his response.

I converted to a Single Drive Low Watt setup last year. Mentally it was a big step and truthfully, I don't think I could have done it if I hadn't gotten a chance to hear this approach before I took the plunge. After having lived with my setup now, I'm a total convert.

What I get with my single drive Omegas is a speed, coherency and a very unbox like sound with the best soundstaging and imaging capabilities of any speakers I've owned. I have two systems set up, besides my Omega Decware system, I have another that I rotate Kef LS50's and Harbeth P3ESR's in and out of. I have to say, it's hard to listen to the Kefs and Harbeths after listening to the Omegas. Both sound slow, boxy and very discontinuous. It's like you can hear the transition from the midrange to the tweeter and I also hear an odd phasiness with those speakers that the Omegas don't have. It's common for two way speakers to have the tweeters wired out of phase with the woofers and both the Kefs and Harbeths are designed this way. It's possible that I can now hear this after living with the Omegas. Before I owned the Omegas, I never even heard these colorations, now they jump out at me instantly. When listening to the Omegas I am often reminded of the sound I used to get with some Magnepans I used to have.

That said, I can understand where the single driver concept isn't for everyone. Shortcomings of my system and I can easily live with them is that the sound ultimately isn't as big or with the impact of traditional speakers. After all, this is a single small driver and at the end of the day, it's not going to move as much air as a big multi way system. For me, it's not an issue, but for others, I could understand how it could be. I know some people play their music quite loud and for those folks, I'm sure some of them would miss some of the big sound you get from multiple driver setups.

Also, ultimate bass response is limited. According to my SPL meter, in my room, my Omega's start to roll off right at 60hz. I'm not a bass freak so it's not a big deal and there are other single driver speakers with larger drivers so as you move up in driver size, this should become less of an issue.

Don't get me wrong, my system will play loud and with impact, but if you are the type of person that blasts Midnight Oil with 100db+ peaks, you'll notice that they don't have the slam that a comparable well designed two way with bigger drivers has.

As far as music styles, I'm all over the place. Basically everything except for hardcore rap and heavy metal.

Today I sold a turntable on Craigslist. Guy who bought it came to pick it up (he's got a vintage Mcintosh tube system) and didn't really know anything about the flea power single driver approach. Before telling him that my equipment was two watts and one little driver, I played a song for him. After a minute, I took the grills off and said, "this is just a single driver crossoverless speaker" and I told him the amp powering it was two watts.

He got a funny look on his face and thought I was playing tricks on him. Wanted to know if my corner room treatments were actually the speakers or if there was some more drivers on the back of the Omegas. He seemed to really be impressed and just kept smiling.

Good luck with your decision and let us know how it ends up.

I also agree that Germanboxers is spot-on with his response.

Join the Dark Side!
I listen to jazz, classical & rock and while I'm not very good at describing sound like those posts before mine, I just know it when its right. Having said that, I owned a very rare pair of wide baffle Omega Grande 8's several years ago, had them for a couple of years and then sold them. In the interim I had a couple pair of nice 2 way British monitor speakers (Celestion 100s & Linn Helix LS150s) and now I've recently re-purchased my old Omegas.

Also, several years back I had the opportunity to hear a bunch of different systems at The Vacuum Tube Valley show in Central NJ. I heard PP & SET systems that used KT88's, EL34s, 6L6s, EL84s, 6BG4s, 300Bs, 2A3's, 45s, 50s, 10s as well as Class D amps w/tube preamps. My overall favorite was the one with the lowest power, an SET amp, played on a single driver pair of Beauhorns. Next, I liked the digital amp/tube preamp with a pair of single driver Omegas and next were the Omegas being played on an EL84 Dyna mark II remake. I don't know how to describe it, much more immediacy and it just sounded right. Single driver speakers and Single ended tube amps (hence my a'gon name) just sounds the best to me. Horn speakers on SE amps also sound great as well.

Don't know if i fit your description fully, but I have done a road trip down the lane of low efficiency speaker systems (probably not any of them known to anyone outside Scandinavia), through commercial hi efficiency horns from Avantgarde (Uno, Duo and Duo Omegas). I went all in and sold my Duo Omegas and went for an all out single driver design, barely known to anyone outside Japan. As Fostex made a new limited edition (500 pcs)fullrange driver, the Fe 203 En-S, there was finally an available suitable driver for the Nagaoka 3m long backloaded horn enclosure. This BLH construction provides an acoustic output down to 40Hz. After trying the driver in the Fostex recommended BLH enclosures i decided to go all in on a speaker system based on this driver in the legendary and "mythical" beerguts enclosure. The fullrange driver in the Nagaoka BLH is a fullworthy speaker in itself, but can be utterly be refined by adding help in both frequency flanks. See my system for reference. My point of all this is; To build my speaker system around this exeptional Nagaoka/Fostex fullrange BLH gave me a great possibility to build a system optimized for my personal preference with the freedom of choosing xover points more freely and keeping them in optimal range for the high/low drivers have given me the opportunity to keep the basic qualities the fullragne hieff BLH Nagaoka construction gave.

So to the first question: I listen to: prog-rock, fusion, prog-metal, metal, jazz. I like to see myself as a musical lover, loving music more than genres. So if it is good it works for me :)

Second question; A lot of good points have already been pointed out in this thread. I recognice most of the pros and cons mentioned.

I played for many months on the "bare" fullrange driver and loved the lack of overlapping problems i have heard on so many multiple driver speakers. To hear female vocals on a fullrange driver is a joyful and quite educating experience imo. The fullrange driver is good, but not state of the art in frequency extremes. As i had ambitions with my speaker system and had a lot of skilled people backing my project i decided to go all out with a system based on the best skills of the Fostex fullrange drivers. I am very happy with the result. It suits my preferences, my room and did not cost me more than the Avantgarde Duo Omegas in the end. I was very happy with my Duo Omega's and still regard them as very attractive speakerss:), but the BeerGuts reference system plays in another league imo.
Germanboxers nails it. Just add to that music list some indie rock and folk and anything with intricate, complicated, overlapping percussion and / or melody to a one note solo.
To my ear you just don't seem to notice a little lack of coherency in most well designed speakers but with the Rethm Saadhanas I drive with a Shindo 20w push pull tube amp and I can imagine some other crossoverless speakers, you do notice the very coherent sound in a speaker of this type.
Seikosa---thanks for your thorough insight and for listing the shortcomings of a Single Driver system as well as the advantages. Taking the plunge is tempting, but not without trepidation considering I've yet to hear this type of system with my own ears---only read reviews and feedback from other audiophiles like yourself and Germanboxers. My musical taste are very similar, but I occasionally like to turn it up and hear deep, distinct notes on both upright bass and bass guitar. Thank you both and I'll keep you posted.
My 4" Merrill drivers really roll off in the lows. However, you wouldn't guess it while listening. The bass you can get out of a quarter wave design is astounding! Every person that has ever heard them goes looking for the subwoofer. The highs literally "float" up to about 15khz. The sound is so fluid and seamless. Since this is my office system, I can listen 30-40 hours a week. I never tire/fatigue from the sound.
This is all driven by a 12 watt vintage Masterwork receiver.

Are single drivers the end-all? Probably not. I've got a fairly robust theater at home running 2000 watts to shake the house. It's fun and can be overwhelming. Great for SACD's too. However, my Sota table mates better with the work system.

If you made me choose-I would have a really hard time deciding between a Coincident 5 channel system and my Merrill Zigmahornets...try it for yourself.
If you list where you live I would bet there may be a member near-by who would invite you over to hear what one of these systems can do ...
That's a good idea---thanks. My zip code is 11510 and I live in Long Island New York.
Hi A-passion I live in Staten Island, NY. If you want to come over for a listen, let me know. Once you go to the dark side there is no going back. ;)


Snopro, just looked at your system, very nice, and A_passion should definitely accept your generous offer. I'm sure the Zu's will definitely answer his questions about the "dark side." BTW, what amp are using, tube mono's or First Watt?
Tls49 thanks. I'm using the 300b Franks. The First Watt is my backup amp it's very good but, the Franks are better at portraying the emotion and organic feel of live music.
The OHM Walsh speakers I favor are a slight spin on the single driver approach. THey use a single driver up to 7khz or so which is where most music occurs, well beyond where most any typical 2 way system would cross over. That delivers a lot of the coherency and rightness aspects that people attribute to wide range drivers, including transparency.

They are different though in being largely omnidirectionsl resulting in large sweet spot and a different kind of room filling presentation. They also low and loud and clear without strain or much compression, unlike many full range drivers. Also, they are not particularly efficient, though many popular designs are significantly less so.
Snopro, Thank you for your generous offer. If I decide to go this route, I'll contact you before taking the plunge to arrange a time that is convenient for you. Thanks again!
There's a pair of Tonian Labs TL-D8.1S for sale here on A'gon with the PHY drivers that just might suit you. http://app.audiogon.com/listings/full-range-tonian-acoustic-tl-d-8-1s-with-phy-hp-drivers-like-new-2014-02-11-speakers-30087
I have the TL-D1s which use the Fostex wideband driver and would jump on these in a heartbeat if I had the money. I've heard the 12" PHY version and just melted away.

Tonian Labs no longer works with PHY-HP which would make them very scarce and hard to secure.
Might be worth a look.

All the best,
There is such a HUGE difference between the 8" and 12" PHY driver IMO that I'd wait for the 12" to come-up if you can.

Like Tonian Labs we also don't work any longer with PHY (Ocellia).

(Dealer disclaimer)
Thanks for looking out. I'll check out the listing.
I've always wanted to hear the PHY 12" driver speaker given its stellar reputation for beautiful sound. I wonder why Tonian Labs would discontinue its use? Now the only option apparently is the Ocellia speaker which is likely different sounding then the Tonian.
Sksos1, Thanks for pointing out that there's a distinct difference in the sound of the 8" PHY driver compared to the 12". I thought there'd be a "house sound" to PHY drivers and that the 8" would be a step up from the Fostex drivers used in my TL-D1s.
I"d hate to be the one to steer someone in the wrong direction.

All the best,
Nonoise there is a house sound in the PHY drivers of course and I'd rather have the 8" PHY driver over the Fostex but the 12" PHY driver is by far the best of these 3.
I have one system based around Phy and another system based around Fostex drivers. High efficiency single driver cannot be beat for small group classical, jazz, and vocals, I believe mostly due to the realistic and natural-sounding midrange magic. Highs and lows are slightly rolled off, which only serves to emphasize the midrange magic.