Horn Speaker Recommendations


I am looking for your feedback on what Horn speakers I should consider in the $15k-$40k price range.  Please describe the rationale for your recommendations.  
willgolf
Why spend that much? Buy the new Klipsch Forte for $4K/pair. Read the review in the latest Stereophile! IMO spending more than that is just burning money!
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Are you looking for a completely horn loaded system, or just horn loaded midrange/tweeter with a direct radiating woofer? The answers seem to span both.
If horns hit my spot and I had your budget I’d get some Klipsch La Scala and look into a couple of real nice subs for them. Horn subs if possible.

My thoughts exactly. For a perhaps more rounded/coherent and even more effortless presentation (through the midrange), albeit at extra outlay, I’d consider the "homage builds" in the form of Simon Mears Audio Uccello’s (I own them myself), which have the now discontinued Klipsch Belles as an inspiration, and Volti Audio’s Vittora that’re based on the La Scala. All of them all-horn speakers with 104-105dB sensitivity and coherent, effortless, naturally warm and very dynamic sonics.

To wring out the best in these I’d strongly advice going for a pair of horn subs, or some variant in this ballpark with high(er) sensitivity. Myself I use a pair of 15"-loaded MicroWrecker Tapped Horns (tuned somewhere between 22-24Hz), and they blend in seamlessly with my Uccello’s crossed at 80Hz (I'm high-passing my mains here with a quality digital XO). A classic Front Loaded Horn would also work great, as I’m sure would a pair of 6th order bandpass iterations like Josh Ricci’s Skrams (fitted with a monstrous neodymium magnet 21" driver). For a quad-sub solution I’d also recommend lilmike’s 10"-loaded PicoWrecker tapped horn subs. The Skrams aren’t horn-loaded as such (well, slightly on the front side of the driver), but with their hidden drivers they should be a successful match to named main speakers nonetheless.

For many if not most audiophiles above recommended TH’s/FLH’s/other 6th order BP’s would seem like madness in a domestic environment, but believe it or not this is all about integration, overall SQ and taking advantage of the full performance envelope with an all-horn(-ish) approach. With the exception of the PW subs they all take up some 18-20 cubic feet per cabinet, by no means shoe boxes, but this is simply dictated physics and a none-compromise (or a lesser compromise at that) approach.

The rationale for above recommendation(s) is perhaps all but obvious by now; horns as all-horns are rare, certainly from 20-25Hz on up, but they’re the potential ticket to what really set horns apart with their particular virtues, and one that is rarely experienced throughout the hifi milieu. This is about uninhibited presence and dynamics, and a relaxed, coherent and effortless presentation, and I believe named alternatives and combinations will able to provide just that.
If you are really serious about horns, I suggest a trip to DejaVu Audio in Virginia.  They offer a variety of custom built horn speakers using vintage Western Electric and YL Acoustic horns and drivers, all in modern cabinets and with top quality crossovers and wiring.  They can build speakers in your price range but they also have ones that go for $250K a pair.  It is well worth the trip.  (No affiliation other than being a satisfied customer.)
I did visit Deja Vu in San Diego and learned all about their horns.  I am currently looking at Avantgarde and the Horns Universum from Poland.  

with all the horns I've heard,  there is wonderful sense of realism as far as dynamic shading is concerned....at the expense of soundstaging, etc.
The other factor I have is I am building a large listening room.  It will be 20 x 35 so the speakers need to fill the space.

JBL M2 is one of the best speakers I have listened to. I think JBL 4367 is based on the same. 
audition jbl 4367 at the very least also i think there is a pair of dd67000s for sale on audiogon for under 40k
JBL DD67000 is the most dynamic modern horn speaker with pretty high efficiency.

You can drive it with low power tube amplifier(10-40Watts).
Check Charney Audio in NJ.
Check out these guys.  I heard their speakers at a show last year and was blown away.  

http://classicaudioloudspeakers.com
+1 on both Deja Vu and Charney Audio
I have heard many excellent horn systems in my years, and truly appreciate the full range horns ( into the sub region ) the most. Phusis knows of what he speaks. Stringreen, I think I should jump on a Vandersteen thread, and mention : of all of the Vandersteens I have owned, sold, and set up for clients, over the years, I managed to get them to sound stage, etc, very well, but they were all very limited in the dynamics department, and other characteristics as well. It has been my experience, that a good horn system, set up properly, can create a wonderful image, sound stage, etc., creating a very believable performance, with all genres of music. Pianissimo and Fortissimo. Musical words used to describe dynamics. Music contains dynamics. Horns do this best. Other words of interest and importance, for excellent music reproduction, besides Dynamics : Tone; Timbre; Pitch; Rhythm; Tempo; Beat & Meter; Harmony; Melody; Texture; Coherence, and I am sure I am leaving things out. Sound staging and imaging is a by product of all of this, and if it is on the recording, it will come through in spades. An accurate, realistic system, should do it ALL. Enjoy ! MrD.
Well said Mr Decibel!  You put some of my thoughts into words better than I could have done.

You just can’t characterize horn systems as all sounding this way or that, positive or negative.  They are all different.  Just like you can’t say all sealed box woofers have a particular sound, or all electrostats, or all ribbon drivers.

For my money, the very best horn systems do everything right including soundstaging and imaging.  
The Avantdarde Duo Mezzo is a reach, but what superlative sound at AXPNOA! If I were after a premier horn, that is one I would certainly have on my short list. 
Oh, my...a large room?

Here is wild, crazy suggestion that many will not like, but exploring options IN YOUR ROOM is the best path to long-term music enjoyment:

Place the horn speakers you like best in the room with your gear and listen to your fav songs.

Remove them and replace them will Magneplanars in the same price range.

Choose.

Good luck!

Cheers,

Richard
5 Cornwalls and some horn subs... Let the love flow
AG Trio XD system.....5 Lascalas and some horn subs...
Not a fan of horns but I do think that something from Cessaro would be worth a look. Best I remember hearing. If you get horns be sure to power them adequately. I strongly favor more power from an OTL design over the lower powered SETs especially if you go with Avantegarde. I wouldnt waste my time with anything from Klipsch unless you want to spend time and money modifying them. Others rightly point out that with horns you sacrifice many things to get those wonderful dynamics and you should make certain that what horns do well are your top sonic priorities.
@willgolf
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to the Avantgarde Acoustics Uno Fino at HifiProfis in Frankfurt (I have Helsinki Gradients with Rythmik subs, combined w DSpeaker X4 for room correction in my main system, and I am completely happy with the sound except for ... life like dynamics at higher SPLs.)While I listened to the Uno Finos only for a short period of time, they sounded absolutely glorious. Space, dynamics, tonality, texture - voices, drums, jazz, symphony orchestra - just stunning.I am familiar with the sound of a Klipsch Horn and I believe there is no comparison.Then there is obviously the form factor and the superb craftsmanship.The eye wants to eat too.
On a more fundamental note, I am a scientist by background and earn a living by identifying breakthrough technologies. Hence I have a strong preference for products designed such that the primary focus is on parameters, which are well understood, and that these parameters are optimized with highest possible skill (i.e., the expertise of the designer is not limiting the outcome; e.g., if the focus is on building cabinets, one may not know very much about DSP) and free of dogmatic limitations. So - if there is a score for the degree of human ingenuity as value contribution (as opposed to simply going overboard with materials, size, weight, ...) the Uno Fino is really up there, too. They will be my next move.Btw, when it comes to the 'speed' of a speaker, especially a (sub-)woofer, it is my impression that this is not so much a function of the"speed" or rise time of the primary impulse. Rather, it is a function of decay, room interaction and (may be) distortion. Combine the room correction and crossover function of a DSpeakerX4 with a couple of good subs (e.g. Rythmik 15" sealed box) and you will be smiling.
Willgolf, you are blowing your horn in the wrong direction. There is no point source radiator (every horn system ever made) that will fill a room that size with a realistically sized sound stage. Only a line source will do that. If it is volume you are worried about don't. Line sources project power much better than point source speakers. You should look carefully at SoundLabs Majestics 845s if you have 8 foot ceilings and 945s if you have 9 foot ceilings. They are right at the top of your price range. They will be more powerful than a horn system (I did not say louder I said more powerful.) Their image production is in another league entirely. There is no horn system that is phase correct across the entire frequency range. The Majestics have no crossover which is always an advantage. Their distortion is even lower and their transient response just as fast but without ringing. They are not as efficient as horns so you will need more power. 200 watts a channel is sufficient for most people. 300B jockeys need not apply.   
There are quite a few of us who believe these speakers are among the best speakers ever made if not the best speakers ever made. I do not own a pair yet but it is only a matter of time. A short time I hope. 
I have had many speakers over my lifetime and have spent a lot of money on stuff.  The best long term speaker system I have encountered (and own for the past 8 years) are the Avantgarde Trios.  On the used market a pair with subs in 19 ohm configuration are about $20K, hopefully within your budget. 

In my experience there are four factors that contribute the most to long term satisfaction with a given sound system.  These are: a large wave launch, high efficiency (100 db or thereabout), good micro-dynamics and lastly no upper mid-range odd-order harmonic distortion (granted electronics are key here but some speakers can be brutal in this crucial region).

A large wave launch means the speakers never sound "loud", allowing you to see into the music better.  High efficiency puts you in a category of being able to select relatively inexpensive electronics.  Micro-dynamics give the music that subtle realism that takes you there.  Once you experience this there is no going back.  Lastly to my ears upper mid-range distortion which in many cases is from under-amplification is a pet peave and may not bother some as much as it bothers me...perhaps due to my aging ears.

Of note, the Trios are a very different animal from the Duos or other horns in the AG line-up.  While they are big and take up space, they work fine in a relatively small room.  I will concede that their imaging is not as pin point as small monitors or planar drivers, but is quite satisfactory to these ears.  Live music does not have finely delineated images. 

Good luck with your search. 
I agree, the Trios are in a different league above the other AGs. But I disagree about them working in a small room. My experience with them ( my buddy owned them, he was the Jadis importer at the time ), tells a different story. Listening too close to them, they lost coherence, and did not stage well. Moving them to a larger room, creating greater distance between them and us, the listeners, they disappeared. We also had set up a pair of the AG powered subs, and it was awesome. 
I would highly recommend auditioning the Diesis Ludos, available at Rhapsody audio. Beautiful top to bottom natural dynamic sound for 29k. Gutenberg auditioned the 100k version and fell in love but Bob at Rhapsody told me this was just as good from his listening, I certainly loved it but out of my price range. There is also a slightly larger Aura for 35k. See details on Ludos below. Best of luck in your search

The transducers used for the low frequencies are two high-efficiency ten-inch woofers, assuring comparable performance to larger models as it reduces a few db of sensitivity because the slimmer design. Upper registers are entrusted to a 45mm compression driver, which is the same as in the Aura one-inch throat. The circular design of the horn, which allows for far more efficient sound diffusion in tight spaces, was designed specifically for this model out of a solid block of milled ARNITE which was then lacquered. The Ludos can be considered a two-and-a-half-way speaker with two identical woofers but tuned to different frequencies. As in other Diesis models, in the Ludos the crossover filter, the assembly of the components and the finishing are all made by hand with no compromises. The efficiency along with its optimization for cozier spaces causes a nearly-live experience even with low-output tube amplifiers.

2.5 way system with 3 speakers
Two dipole loaded woofers 10 inch

Understanding driver from 45 mm exponential horn loaded on specific Sharp Audio

Sensitivity 93 db 2.83 V/M
Nominal impedance 6 Ohms
Frequency response in environment from 37 a 26.000 hz a +/- 8 db
Minimum power 10 watts RMS
Max power 130 watts RMS
Acoustic crossovers to 180 Hz and 2000 Hz
Maximum dimensions width cm Height cm depth cm 32,8, 28,9, 104,2, single speaker Weight 40 kg
* Bearing frame Clad 58 produced on specific Sharp Audio (material composed of mineral powders, cement and special resins) cast in one mould

Trumpet by one inch fiberglass and abs made about specific
Totalfix proprietary system for fixing the woofer
Cross-over hard wired with high-quality components treated with dielectric resins to military standards
Removable front panel and trumpet to allow editing of the aesthetics of the speaker in order to customize its inclusion in environment



My room is 23' X 20' which I assume is smaller than most dedicated sound rooms.  That is what I am referring to as a small room.  In that space they work fine. Most venues where Trios are being displayed are much larger than that.  I should have specified that.  
Agree with much of what you say about the Sound Labs, however dont forget to mention that these speakers are dipoles which creates problems by virtue of this aspect. Not a small problem I might add.
Has anyone from around the world heard the Horn Universum 3 way that are made in Poland?  There are none in North America.  
Second question, audio stores are telling me you need to use tube amps with Horns.  Do you agree?  I recently purchased Mola Mola Kaluga amps with the Makua Pre amp.  I was going to use them with a totally different speaker, but the Horns have really caught my interest.  What would I be sacrificing if I didn't use tube amps?  My current system is a Raven Audio Reflection MK2 tube amp with Sonus Faber Amati Tradition Homage speakers.  I sold that system with my house sale.  
It might be helpful to know what you are pairing the speakers with.  Would you need new amp?  Be able to use higher demanding speakers? etc.  


I would take a listen to the Rethm Saadhana.  They are a beautiful speaker in both sound and looks. 

 Loudspeaker sensitivity: 100 db/w/m. 
Impedance: 8 ohms. 
Frequency response: 22 Hz to 20 Khz. (60 Hz to 20kHz from wideband driver) Below that from the powered bass (x 3 in each enclosure) that blends in seamlessly
Minimum amplification power: 2 wpc  (A low watt tube amp sounds wonderful - no need to spend the extra $ on high watt amplification)
They have a powered bass built in so no need for a subwoofer
Sound - great detail, tone, no fatigue.  My last speaker.  And < 20K.
Gestalt HiFi (no affiliation, I just have had great service from Mike there) in Santa Fe has if close enough to drop in there.
I do not think it is necessary to use tubes on horns.  At Axpona this year the Avantgarde room was using an Esoteric integrated amp, 30 watts per channel with AG Duos and it sounded terrific.  Perhaps others on this forum heard that room and can comment on the sound.

AG amplifier designs have all been solid state.  However, in my experience a moderately priced tube amp (~$5000) will sound better than a moderately priced solid state amplifier.  I drive my Trios with a Sophia integrated tube amplifier that costs under the $5000, which uses a 206 Sophia Princess output tube (a 300B hybrid) and puts out about 5 watts and sounds wonderful with a large dense sound field similar in sonic character to the Shindo tube gear.  I highly recommend Sophia Electric tube amplifiers.

There is one horn system that I have heard over the last three years at Axpona which is most impressive at a price point, and that is the Sadurni horns, a three way system similar to the AG Trios.  The problem is one never knows how long some of these boutique audiophile companies will stay in business.  
@willgolf --

Has anyone from around the world heard the Horn Universum 3 way that are made in Poland?  There are none in North America.  

I've heard a previous iteration of the hORNS Universum (and once owned the smaller sibling model, the Mummy), and the midrange in particular was wonderful. The large JMLC mids horn presented this frequency range quite unlike anything I'd really heard before - in a positive way. 

Second question, audio stores are telling me you need to use tube amps with Horns.  Do you agree?

I disagree, but I'd urge you to audition a variety of both SS- and tube-based amps with the Universum's, and then make your assessments in the wake of this. You may end up agreeing with the audio stores you have conversed with in regards to their advice on the pairing with tube amps (or you may not), but most importantly you'd have formed your own opinion to either agree or disagree with them. I know Lukasz Lewandowski of hORNS prefers tube amps in general, but regardless seek your own experience here. 
I heard  Avantgarde Duo and Uno on Montreal Audio show:
The sound was a huge, fast and detailed. But I didn't like bass quality and tone wasn't natural:
https://youtu.be/-cjmSP574Y4
https://youtu.be/3tbErIPQiXQ
https://youtu.be/4s8AeLSdk2M

I liked Tune Audio Marvel speakers.
they have excelent, natural tone. But the sound is not as big as  Avantgarde speakers:
 https://youtu.be/JCLuH_NeVgI

Regards,
Alex
@phusis

" once owned the smaller sibling model, the Mummy "
Can you provide some insights about the Mummy's sound ,etc and what you drove them with?
@willgolf
If your in the NJ,NY CT, PA area make an appointment with Charney Audio and listen to his outstanding creations. Full range single driver rear loaded horns based on the Tractrix theory. No crossover and no sub needed! Sweet clean highs with engaging midrange and full notes to the bass. Yes that’s notes not note! No need for room correction and very little in room treatments. Depending on the driver chosen Solid state and tube will sound exceptional. I’m currently listening to a pair or Maestro Companions Omega RS7 driver with a Digital Amplifier Company stereo Maraschino with fantastic results! High, deep and wide sound stage with pinpoint imaging that will draw you into the music. You’ll "get" what the artist is conveying with Charney Horns. Charney will custom make his horns with any wood and color scheme you want to fit your decor and budget. True works of art that sound exceptional! Go and give them a listen...you’ll be glad you did!
http://charneyaudio.com/
BTW What’s your handicap?



Charney is not too far from me BUT he's charging a lot for some VERY Mediocre looking speakers. They Look like something you could make in your basement. Im sure they sound wonderful
I would have to agree with Avantgarde recommendation, (I’ve owned Duo Omega G2 for 10 years, and still have them)
every point that had been been made elsewhere in this thread is valid:
Given careful set up, They sound absolutely fabulous- transparent, no colorations, dynamic, great micro shadings, non fatiguing.
i use mines with an active crossover and a pair of JL Fathom 112 V2 subs.
Essentially, they are like an audio magnifying glass, you will hear every small change, you make in your system.
I'm sure Trios are even better.
the other very important aspect is- Avantgarde is one of the oldest, largest and best established contemporary horn speakers manufacturers in the world, therefore they have sufficient R&D budget to stay near the top of the game, great customer support and can guarantee worry free ownership, unlike other companies mentioned here, whose presence in the future market place is less certain.
I too, endorse getting in contact with Deja Vu about a custom horn system and also contacting Charney Audio.  The Deja Vu stores in San Diego and Miami are affiliated with Deja Vu in Tyson's Corner Virginia.  If you can find your way to Virginia, you will see where the speakers are made and you will find more options (in any case, you can talk to Vu at the VIrginia store).  With both Deja Vu horns and Charney single-driver back-loaded horns, you have the considerable advantage of being able to utilize low-powered tube amps.  

Low powered tube amps, to me, sound considerably better than either solid state or high-powered tube amps.  But, that does not mean that you cannot use solid state with a horn system.  

I hardly think that the Charney speakers look bad, but, that might just be my particular taste.  They have models that are quite compact which makes them quite easy to place in a room and for their modest size, they sound BIG.  To me, that is a big plus in the "looks" department.

Avantgarde makes nice sounding horn systems that are also quite efficient too.  Certainly, they should be on any short list as well.  They have some quite strange looking systems, but, I kind of like that look.

Good luck on your search.

Handicap is 4.  I am building a somewhat modern home so believe it or not the speakers must not only sound great but must be good looking also.  Boxier vintage style horns will not pass the eye test.  AvantGarde is a contender.  The Uno XD is more in the range of what I want to spend but I have been told the Duo XD are CLEARLY better.  Yes money does matter even in this price range especially when you are talking another $10k.  With my room being about 19'W by 30'L, I have been told the Uno's are not big enough.  I am not sure I buy that statement as my listening area is 12'-14' away.  The Concerto by Charney looks interesting also.  Other than you tube I don't know how it sounds.  
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Given your budget, you should consider going to New Jersey (Charney) or the Washington DC area (Deja Vu) to get a good audition.  The other choice would be to attend a show that has some of the brands you are interested in.  Although shows often don't present speakers at their best, they at least will give you more than any description or review can ever deliver.  

Although they are not horn speakers, Voxativ makes systems that have similar characteristics--dynamic, vivid, good at lower volume levels.  Another brand (also not horns) to look into is Trenner and Friedl.  Someone, above mentioned Rethm speakers; I heard their $3,000 model (Bhaava) a couple of years ago and they were quite impressive.  The  Rethm had the liveliness of full range speakers (they use a full range driver plus a powered subwoofer), but none of the excessive peakiness that is common to full range systems).  The Rethm was like a bargain Charney in sound quality.   
@willgolf  The Classic Audio Loudspeakers model T-3 or T-1 is something at which you might want to take a look.
They are hybrid- using 15" woofers in a bass reflex cabinet, going down to 20Hz. The mids and highs are horns; overall the speaker is 98dB 1 watt/1 meter and 16 ohms. I've used them in rooms about 3 times your size (a ballroom at RMAF) and they produced a very expansive and precise sound stage. We had a lot of fun playing Roger Water's 'Amused to Death'; the sounds from the side like the carriage were spooky!
What's nice about this speaker is the first breakup occurs at about 35KHz, so its very smooth. Due to its field coil operation, its also as fast as any ESL; the result is a very cohesive, detailed and relaxed presentation. In that room we had 140 watts/channel (our MA-1 OTLs) and pretty much had unlimited power. Since they go to 20Hz, no need for a sub or subwoofer crossover- one amp can handle the speaker full range so no integration issues. The speaker is easy to set up in most rooms; I've operated them for years with only a few inches behind the speaker to the wall and yet gotten a very convincing sound stage. This of course is one of the advantages of the controlled radiation pattern of a horn. 

You can find plenty of images on them on line. I've shown at shows with CAL a lot and we've gotten plenty of accolades (Best Sound at Show, that sort of thing) from many publications.

At home my room is not nearly the size of the one you have planned; I use our little S-30 OTL and it shakes the house when the really deep bass notes show up. Yet its easy to listen to all day and can play delicate material with the same ease as bombastic stuff. I've not found a recording that has shown a weakness in the speaker- its good with everything I throw at it.

I did go to Deja Vu in San Diego and I had an extensive listening session with them.  I also have been to shows in New York and LA.  I just got back from a week in LA and San Diego with the sole purpose of listening to speakers.  I am going to Dallas and Florida in the near future to do the same.  My wife does not like the look of Charney and Deja Vu.  If I decide not to go with Horn speakers I am considering Evolution Acoustic Maestoso which is not out yet but I heard a demo of while I was in LA last week. By the way, I love all of the feedback I am getting on my search.  This is a big change as I am moving out of Sonus Faber Amati Tradition Homage speakers, which are fantastic in their own right.

kosst...the speakers would be at the base of the long wall.  My room now is 25 x 40 and I sit 15 feet away and the sound is still incredible.  I don’t doubt that the Duo’s would sound better but I am not sure in my room I could hear $10k difference.  
Rodman... why Avantgarde?
I have not heard the speakers by Volti Audio, but they would be on my list of speakers to audition should I ever have that kind of money.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8hU4tDnZ7I&feature=share