Lowther in bass reflex or Cain Abby

After looking at many of the speakers suggested in response to my previous post regarding suitable speakers for a low powered tube amp (Sophia baby 10wpc) and late night-low volume listening, I am still leaning toward the high efficiency full range driver camp.

I’m most interested in the Cain and Cain Abby and the bass reflex 1.3 model speakers from commomsenseaudio.com loaded with one of the Lowther drivers. The Cain speakers seem to be a well known and well regarded system. Does anyone have experience with the Lowther systems from common sense audio?

Price wise these are about the same, the lowest end Lowther being slightly less expensive, but it is close enough in price for that not to be a real consideration.

Anyone care to share some feeling/experience/biases regarding either of these tow (particularly the Lowthers)?

Thanks again!
Kunja, where are you located? Are there any Cain & Cain dealers in your area? It would be worth listening to the Abbys - they are big and difficult to transport speakers, although in your room they occupy a small footprint. You can't really go wrong with them if you are looking for a full sound.

Sorry but never heard the Lowther in questions. Another alternative often mentioned here are Bob Brines speakers, which are not quite as pretty as the Abbys and I don't know of anyone who did compare them directly to the Abbys. Lookswise there is no question though... Again in your pricerange the Horn Shoppe Horns seem like a good option too.

Also, one last comment: Single drivers do require a careful amp match. The Fi X/Abby combination is excellent, so is the First Watt F1/Horn combo in my own experience. Furthermore, single drivers are not for everyone, some people just can't live without the top end or bottom end extension. Worth listening to a few or at least buying some on trial.

I agree with Restock..you should listen before making the plunge. You may Love'Em and you may Hate'Em . The Abbys are beautifully handcrafted speakers. They also sound great with low power tubes. Wish mine were that perty!! :-)

Also you could go Open Baffle..

Go to Audiocircle.com and post your question. There are many on that forum who use and have experience with different implementations of single drivers. You could post it on Audioasylum.com in the HE forum..they're a rowdy bunch though.
Audiocircle is good, but the Fullrange Driver Forum is all fullrange, all the time. You name, they've done it. Doubt you can find more collective experience anywhere on the web.

If you can't find a Cain & Cain dealer near you, try shooting Terry Cain an email off his website to see if there is an Abby owner in your neck of the woods. You never know...

BTW, Terry does have a Fostex super tweeter that can be added to all his speakers for a little more "sparkle". I have the T-900A tweeter pods on my IM-Bens and like them, but they are no where near mandatory.
In my experience these types of speakers are very cold sounding.If you like speakers that emote you probably need to look elsewhere.
The Goodmans Axiom 80 is the exception to this however.
Many of us have been down the single driver path.You can enjoy these immensely for a while but after a while you also come to realise their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
Some don't though,so they are probably still worth a try.
Just buy some Zu speakers..there the best speakers in the world and nothing I'm mean nothings better.. you know. LOL
I live in MN if your close come and take a listen to my abbys. I have not heard the lowthers, so I cannot comment on them, but the Abbys are really magic. I have tried the onix sp3 and the eastern electric m520 and enjoy the experience they provide. I listen to almost every type of music on them from clasical to new rock.
Check out the new Lowther Alerion. The smaller Lowther in a Cain cabinet. http://www.lowther-america.com/ I have heard them and they sound excellent, but you will need a sub.

While I agree that single drivers are not for everybody, the last word I would use to describe a Lowther system is cold. For whatever weakness' they have, and all speakers have them, I have never heard them described as lacking in emotion. In fact, this is the one attribute that almost everybody uses to describe them. If they sounded cold it was not the speaker.

I don't know which single-drivers you have listened to, but as Herman has mentioned, my Cain & Cain I-Bens are anything BUT cold. And this is from a guy who loves a "slightly warm" sound ala Jean Marie Reynaud speakers which I owned for 5 years.

The real problem is that single-driver designs are difficult to execute well and can be ruthlessly revealing of their own and all upstream flaws. As a result, there are far more poor examples than there are great and system matching takes a real committment to effort.

Anyone in the Los Angeles or Southern California area is welcome to come on over and hear for themselves. Just drop me an email.
finding speakers to fit an amp is a bit like the tail wagging the dog.
Interesting comments.I have always prefered warmer sounding speakers like Spendor and electrostats.So by comparison the Lowthers are cold.The Fostex are colder still.I have also used a Coral 10 inch which I rate ahead of the Fostex.
Maybe we have different understandings of cold.What I am referring to is the ability to convey the emotional aspects or feeling of the music.For many types of music this not really missed.I listen to a lot of acoustic roots music in which much of the substance is based on expression and timbre.Artists that typify this are Guy Clark,Francis Black,Mary Black,Kasey Chambers,Eva Cassidy,Shawn Colvin etc.On this type of music the relative coldness of the wizzer cone type speakers is revealed.I also have Edgar Mid horns that are superb on this type of music,as well as Crown electrostats and Toshiba SS30s[stunning sounding speakers].Other speakers I own like ESS Heil ribbons are not so good.
I use a 300b preamp [Supratek Cabernet]and EL34 monoblocks so I don't think there is any other cold sounding components in my system.
Anyway this is just one persons opinion.If you don't listen for the same things in music as me the Lowthers may suit perfectly.I do think however the back loaded horns have major phasing issues caused by the negative phase coming from the back of the cone and interfering with the sound coming from the front.This is not so much an issue for bass but it is for midrange performance and I think any such speaker needs carefully applied damping within the horn to minimise this.

I do agree about the problem of the backwave lagging behind the front, however this is solved with a design like this using a horn and no back chamber.


I believe this one is no longer available but he is coming out with a new design using the smaller Lowther that should be interesting.
Thanks for explaining Jtgofish,

***So by comparison the Lowthers are cold.The Fostex are colder still.I have also used a Coral 10 inch which I rate ahead of the Fostex....I listen to a lot of acoustic roots music in which much of the substance is based on expression and timbre...On this type of music the relative coldness of the wizzer cone type speakers is revealed.****

Now, I understand what you were saying. Yes, I have heard a few whizzered driver designs that tended towards the sterile. But, I have also heard similar from multi-way systems.

My favorite test of vocals are the great jazz vocalists on vinyl like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Sinatra, Etta James, even Louis Armstrong when he dips into his slower, more melancholy tunes. A classic example is Louis' "St. James Infirmary" off his 1959 recording "Satchmo Plays King Oliver"(you can listen to it on RealAudio Player at the link). The song is played at a slow, funeral dirge, pace while Louis sings a song of deep pain & misery. Get the Audio Fidelity 45 rpm reissue and let the song rip at your heart strings.

In my mind, if you can't touch the soul, then there is no music. Yet, this is such highly subjective critique that I bet what I dislike, others found fabulous and vice versa.

But, back to your Fostex/Lowther/Coral whizzer objection, here we come across the danger of broad generalizations - not all fullrange drivers use whizzer cones these days. Fostex's FE-E Sigma series are the first that come to mind. Here is a closeup picture of the FE-168EZ Sigma driver used in my Cain & Cain I-Ben speakers(pic here, system here). (all C&C Studio Series speakers use the whizzerless Sigma drivers)

Supravox's fullrange field-coil drivers also do not use whizzer cones(except the 215 Sig Bicone). I have heard these and they are very rich and engaging.

Neither of these drivers, properly implemented, exhibit the emotional disconnect(to me) that you associate with whizzer cones. Surprisingly, neither does the entry-level Cain & Cain Abby which uses the whizzered Fostex FE-166e. That speaker just plain sounds right.

Another whizzered performer is the Hammer Dynamics Super-12 fullrangers which use a custom 12" Eminence driver w/ supertweeter crossed in above 10kHz. For a $650 97dB kit, this speakers does amazingly well in comparison to smaller drivers - especially bass abd mid-bass. But, it's midrange is also rich and full. Really a superb speaker in the sub-$1.5k range after some minor modifications.

***I use a 300b preamp [Supratek Cabernet]and EL34 monoblocks so I don't think there is any other cold sounding components in my system.***

Wow, I would love to hear that setup. Sounds fantastic! I've been dying to check Supratek's amps for a long time now. And that 300B preamp has been a real source of interest for me. Though, right now I am completely into my passive S&B transformer volume control. Under the right source/cables/amplifier conditions there is really nothign the can touch it's transparency and tonal beauty.

***I also have Edgar Mid horns that are superb on this type of music***

As luck would have it, Dr. Edgar's shop is only 10 minutes from my house. I have had quite a few chances to hear his entire Titan & Seismic sub setup driven by Cy Brennan's amps. Nothing short of a revelation. Every time I have heard them, I have this initial elation and then a mild depression when I leave, something akin to serious "horn envy". Their presentation so incredibly smooth and effortless, while hiding explosive dynamics. And nothing recreates horns like compression horns.

But, as soon as I get home and toss on something like the Louis cut above, Joni Mitchell, or Cassandra Wilson the "envy" melts away. To me, the C&C Bens put more body and chest into vocals. There's a physical aspect that I feel which is not present(in my mind) in horn systems that are so effortless and smooth. At times, I can hear the flapping of the loose flesh at the back of Armstrong's throat and the raspy texture it gives his voice. I also get a better sense of the wood cavity/resonance in acoustic instruments cellos and double-bass.

And then there's the real forte of single-drivers(besides midrange) - "coherency". As if the entire sonic soundscape is woven froma single, flawless, tapestry. There's a flowing sense of rightness, to me.

***I do think however the back loaded horns have major phasing issues...This is not so much an issue for bass but it is for midrange performance and I think any such speaker needs carefully applied damping within the horn to minimise this.****

Oddly, my Bens do not have any(or minimal) internal dampening, yet don't exhibit any of the phase issues you cite. Nor, the honking or excess resonance of many horn-loaded speakers. I suppose it's all in the execution of a design.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience, seems like you've done some pretty serious system matching. I haven't been at this for very long and always come away from discussions like this with new things to look into.
Thanks again to everyone for their comments. This forum really is a lot more helpful and friendly than most I have particiapted in. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with someone just starting out.
Nice looking system Mr. Moebius, Terry Cain really does build a beautiful cabinet.

You speakers have to exhibit some of the back wave issues that were talked about. As the frequency decreases at some point you are getting a stronger wave from the port than from the front of the driver and this wave takes longer to get to you than than the front wave. There must also be something in the design to dampen the higher frequencies or you would be getting them twice. Once from the front and again a bit later from the back. Whether you are sensitive to this or not is another story, but it is there.
Hi Herman,

Thanks for explaining more clearly the theory behind horn design. I suppose there could be some dampening deep in the 5' tall horn, I can only reach so far and barely reach the tip of the internal shelf/cavity where the driver is mounted. So, it is entirely possible that there is something there.

I guess the fact that I cannot hear much(or any) high frequency information coming out of the top or bottom horn mouth lends credence to your explanation.

BTW, I love your setup - really nice Avantgarde's and that DIY 300B looks real tastey. Wanna share some details?

Also, I need some room treatments real bad in my room. The only thing really holding back my system right now is the room interactions.

I've been talking about DIY bass traps for a long time, but also have thought about corner treatments. How do those 8th Nerve products work? I've been to their website several times.
Darkmoebius,Thanks for such a comprehensive reply.Nice to respond to somebody with such great taste in music.
I have not heard the non wizzer Fostex.I should give them a try.Also I have not tried the FE 166 because of its very limited bass but always suspected that it might sound better than the bigger Fostex speakers because it has a much flatter response.
It is always a bonus when you live close to a maker of great products like Edgar and get a chance to hear them.I am lucky enough to live near Supratek.The Supratek preamps really are something special and very much designed to get the best out of the sort of music and speakers you are into.
Mick Maloney uses Goodmans Axiom 80 based speakers[amongst several others].
Jtgofish fe166e will not sound better than larger fostex drivers only one its close to is fe206e and that would be apples to oranges.I have used all these drivers check my feedback fe166e is a ok little 6in but many better wide ranges available. if your building to a lower price point fe166e is a good start. I much perfered nagaoka design for fe166e over VP. But as always YMMV

Take a look at this review. It is very verbose but if you take the time it pretty well describes the function of the Eighth Nerve products. They really do work.