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It is true that high quality speakers are more likely to be lower impedance than they were 40 years ago because single driver systems, Lowther, Tannoy etc are no longer dominant. Multi driver speakers are more likely to be lower in impedance. But impedance alone is not indicative of quality high or low.
If you are only used to listening to systems driven by big, high current SS amps, you might that it is true. Many good, multi-driver speakers that mate well with SS amps have low impedences. However, there are many very, very good speakers with high impedences. They tend to mate well w tube amps. See for example, Vandersteen, Merlin, Coincident, Silverline, Classic Audio Reproductions, Dali Megaline, Horning, Audionote.
Nope. But you knew that, didn't you :)?
Well, sort of, but was not quite sure. ;) I had it direct quoted from somewhere without much context. How about "there are more high end speakers with 4 ohm than 8 ohm?"
When I had relatively cheap amps, I could not find anywhere about power ratings (RMS) mentioned for 4 ohm in their specs. All were listed for 8 ohm.
Most mid-high end power amps seem to have ratings listed for both 4 ohm and 8 ohm.
Most relatively cheap speakers I had (including Klipsch KLF-20, B&W 603 S3, Celestion Impact 20, ...) were all 8 ohms.
So, I was wondering if the low impedance has to do with high end speaker design in general. Of couser, I agree that there are many high end/high quality speakers with 8 ohm, so there must be exceptions.
Unsound- OP was, I thought, talking about 4 ohm nominal vs anything higher. See for example, his recent response:
When I had relatively cheap amps, I could not find anywhere about power ratings (RMS) mentioned for 4 ohm in their specs. All were listed for 8 ohm.
In that context, Vandersteens are mostly spec'd, IIRC, as 6 ohm minimum and would qualify as higher impedance (i.e., higher than 4 ohm) loudspeakers. Of course, you and I could disagree about lots of things audio, but I don't think that we would disagree that the speaker makers I put forward are generally considered "high end".
And to the OP, the post I quoted is very telling. What you are seeing is that in-expensive solid state amplifiers often lack the robust power supplies necessary to allow them to deliver high quality specs into a 4 ohm or lower load (many speakers exhibit lower than spec'd impedance across at least a part of the audio spectrum).
Swampwalker, I suppose for the most part we actually do agree. The Vandersteens aside from their selfpowered subs have a minimum impedance range of 2 to 5 Ohms. As for the others, yes they are generally considered "high end". I just haven't heard any high minimum impedance speakers that I would care to own, so IMHO I guess I wouldn't consider them "high quality" regardless of the craftsmanship, marketing, etc. involved. Others are of course welcome to disagree. I think the OP's question has more merit than some might at first assume.
16ohms or or so can sometimes be better sounding. And a easy load for most all amps. 4 ohms is easy to design for try keeping a 3 way or 4 way loudspeaker 16ohms not a easy design chore. But to be fair 4 ohm designs can sound great as do 8 ohm or 16 ohm. Just depends on total design and system said loudspeaker will be used in. In loudspeakers its the design and parts used that maters most the ohm loads more a issue when selecting amplifier.
I think in a lot of cases they could design a lot of those 4Ω speakers to have only an 8Ω load.That may take a lot more engineering,plus better parts in crossovers,drivers,etc.The result,higher cost.When you look through buyers guides,you will find a lot of pricey high end speakers that are 8Ω.With some manufacturers their top flagship will be 8Ω speakers,and
their cheaper models are 4Ω.And also the opposite.I have good and bad that are both.Sometimes a new version will come out with higher impedance.HT 2009 buyers guide examples.(Snell Illusion,$50,000,8Ω)( Snell C7,$9,000,4Ω)(Totem Arro$1,350,4Ω)( Totem Forrest,$3,495,8Ω)They vary all different ways.It's hard to say that 4Ω speakers are the best.Have you compared them to all the over $50,000 8Ω speakers to see if they really are better?♫
Putting on my speaker designer hat for a moment, if I have the option of allowing the impedance to drop to 4 ohms (or below) I can often get a bit more bass extension out of a speaker, and/or use more aggressive equalization.
On the other hand as long as they're not pushed into clipping, I think most amps sound better with an "easy" load (even if the amp is capable of driving a very difficult one). Neither the "nominal impedance" nor the "minimum impedance" tells the whole story, but rather the impedance curve plus the efficiency need to be examined in the context of the application.
My personal preference is to err in favor of amplifier compatibility, as some of the best-sounding amps are fairly load-sensitive.
A designer would need to invest more in drivers for higher ohm designs. Not alot of cheap 16ohm transducers about even in pro audio they cost more. But many cheap 4 ohm and 8 ohm transducers. The designs that are not Hi-eff are the far more compramised designs. They are designed to fit so many per pallet as much as sound quality. The profit margines are consider as much as performance. They have to apeal to many and must have hi SAF plus be easy to stock ship. Hi-eff designs are built mostly by small companies who realy care about end result. Since they move very few units they need to realy care about what they do since the moneys realy not there you get a labor of love so to speak. Or you can buy a 4-8 ohm design built in China with a vaildated audiophile aproved name. You get cheap MDF cabs and weak motor drivers. These will be placed in small bookshelf or slim towers with multiple woofers. Boring....
A lot of high quality speakers rated 6 or 8 ohms overall seem to have impedance curves that in fact go to 4 ohms or lower at lower frequencies in particular. I haven't counted so I don't know if most do, but a significant % certainly do.
Of course there are other high-quality designs that are well above 4 ohms as well.
I don't think impedance alone is a reliable indicator of "high quality", assuming you take proper matching of the amp into consideration, which I suspect many do not in practice.
My guess is that most speakers being built today with impedances of greater than 8 ohms (a significant minority overall I suspect) are high-quality whereas speakers designated 8 ohms or less are more hit or miss in general.
JohnK, that some drivers that are high impedance design have little demand and therefore drives up their cost doesn't neccessarily make those designs worthy of their extra cost. On the other hand some of the more expensive drivers are indeed low impedance designs as well. That many drivers are designed to work with the most commonly available amplification is of no surprise, but the subject matter here is "high-quality" loudspeakers, and the those mass market drivers you are refering to aren't really what we're talking about here.
Mapman, I some level I think you've hit the heart of the matter with "I don't think impedance alone is a relaible indicator of "high quality", assuming you take proper matching of the amp into consideration...."
While we can't truly seperate amps from speakers, the OP question offers food for thought on the issue re: impedance and the quality of speakers. If we try for just a moment to stay focused on speakers alone, the OP's question isn't as silly as it might first appear.
I suspect that many speakers that are designed to be more effecient are in fact not so due to inherently superior drivers or other design parameters but, done so that they can better accomodate particular amplifiers and that course of action might just very well compromise the ability of the very speakers themsleves.
There are some here that think that less effecient speakers and big ss amps are silly. I would argure that that's no sillier than less efficent, small tube amps driving big speakers.
My experience tells me that the differences between speakers is greater than the differences between amps regardless of the amps technology.
YMMV, everyones tastes are different, and the marketplace has almost everything for almost everyone. Enjoy, regardless of the path you choose.
I suppose another way to look at it is that higher impedance speakers are a safer bet to be able to be driven properly with a wider range of amplifiers.
So if you do not want to have to worry as much about matching an amp to speakers, 16 ohm speakers may be the way to go. However, given the current state of the high end audio market today, expect to pay a premium for those high impedance speakers compared to those "higher risk" designs with lower impedance and similar performance potential that may not sing with just any amp.
Mapman, actually you've gone too far in the opposite direction. Most ss amps aren't at their best into 16 Ohms. Remember that a ss amps that doubles down from 8 Ohms also halves up from 8 Ohms. The safe bet for ultimate amp compatbility would probably be around 8 Ohms, and perhaps 6 Ohms for mass market amps.
Unsound you said [I suspect that many speakers that are designed to be more effecient are in fact not so due to inherently superior drivers or other design parameters but, done so that they can better accomodate particular amplifiers and that course of action might just very well compromise the ability of the very speakers themsleves] You can have this opinion all you like but if you understood even a wee bit about transducer or loudspeaker design you would understand how wrong you are.
"Most ss amps aren't at their best into 16 Ohms. "
I'm operating under the assumption that a higher damping factor is in of itself a good thing, all other design factors aside.
Of course we all know what happens when one assumes.....
I suspect different amps will still sound different into 16 ohms and not play as loud, however there is less downside potential along with this as well, if not optimally matched, hence 16 ohms is safer, as I indicated, but not necessarily a lock alone for optimal performance.
% wise I would say that no large speaker company puts in cones
as expensive as what KCS does in relation to how much the speakers actually sell for.
I personally prefer speakers that are hi-eff and that do not need enough power to illuminate New York to get a whisper of sound out of them.
Enjoy your preferences fellow goners'............
I also think that the most expensive speakers are erring down to 4ohms (I maybe wrong on that one though).......
Doesn't mean they are of the most highest quality.
johnk- could you please explain why drivers with 16ohm rdc is superior to 4 ohms? in sIMILAR conctruction they have only thinner wire used at former and thus higher Le(which is not good IMHO) in passive implementation it will fail to 4 ohms drivers which can use lower resistanse coils. the only thing which cna be stated that most amps (even those which cna handle 1ohm load) will have more discortions at 1-3ohms than 8ohms.
I have designe dmore than 80 diferet speakers models with variuos impadances, cmomonly i can say that 10-20ohms speakers are more calm and smoother souding while 3-4ohms are more dynamic and have "grip" in LF(i compare similar designs)
WHat you said regarding relative sound of speakers with various impedances intuitively sounds right to me.
So then can it practically be said which is higher quality? I do not think so. Different flavors will appeal to different people.
The higher impedance speakers would seem to have less potential to offend, but perhaps are also harder to get a big thrill (in terms of dynamics) out of?
Bill, I suspect that at higher impedances ss amps might be able to sustain a higher bias longer, but at the cost of reduced ultimate power. I suspect that the speakers sensitivity coupled with room size and ultimate volume sought would of have to be added to the equation. Still, I think 16 Ohms in most cases would not be the best load for most ss amps.
A solid state amp will put out less power maximum power into a 16 ohm load, which of course is an issue if the amp may be pushed into clipping. But if the amp will produce adequate headroom into a high impedance load, in my opinion there's a valid argument in favor of relatively high impedance speakers.
If you look at the distortion curves published by Stereophile at 8, 4 and 2 ohms, you will see that below the onset of clipping the distortion is usually lower into a high impedance load. Due to a psychoacoustic phenomenon called "masking" the distortion at low power levels is of considerably greater subjective consequence than distortion at high power levels, so you want to focus on the low-power end of the distortion curves (again assuming you're not driving the amp into clipping). Personally I'd like to see what's happening down at the milliwatt level but that information isn't given.
Let me just comment that THD measurements are not reliable indicators of relative sound quality from one amp to another, as design choices that minimize THD are often counter-productive from a subjective standpoint (small amounts of high, odd-order distortion are far more audible and objectionable to the ear than are very large amounts of second harmonic distortion; in other words, the industry is meauring with the wrong yardstick). But THD measurements made on the same amplifier under different load conditions are reliable indicators of relative sound quality because they tell us how close to ideal that amp's performance is into that load.
4 ohm nominal designs which often dip down to 1.5 ohms will provide significant challenges for most power amplifiers. They will also cause speaker cables to start to make an audible difference and of course the heat generated in these type voice coils will result in significant thermal compression also. (This can make cheap speakers more reliable as the thermal compression acts as protection for the drivers when driven hard and make them sound terrible so you turn the volume down)
4 ohms are best avoided if you are at all serious about accurate audio reproduction.
8 ohm or 16 ohm works fine... most tweeters are around 20 ohms.
I dont think 4ohm 8 ohm 16 ohm are the better or only choice. Just a choice and a quality loudspeaker can be made at 4 8 16 ohm without any real issues but of course you need to select amp and loudspeaker that work well together. So the Ohm loads not much of a design issue more of a system matching issue. But for hi-eff I shoot for 16 ohms. for med 4ohms is fine and I offer 2 4 ohm models. As for the rest this thread puts a hurt on me brain so good day.
"Most high-quality loudspeakers are 4-Ohms"
Its a reasonable question though I'm not sure how much value an answer provides.
Saying neither 4 8 or 16 is objectively better may be true but does not answer the question. That only indicates that 4 ohm speakers can be high quality, not whether most quality speakers are 4 ohms.
Not sure why some are put off by the discussion? I am finding it informative even though I am doubtful a conclusive answer to the question will result.
The word's leading designers are still trying to determine how many ohms to use in a speaker.
Note like a true audiophile he uses an older form of the analog gramophone - the Edison cylinder.
If you listen to the words you realize he is using much more than 4 ohms...
Mapman, I would hazard a guess; that including both nominal and minimum impedances, there are more 4-Ohm high quality loudspeakers than not, ergo it's likely that the answer to the OP; is yes, "Most high-quality loudspeakers are 4-Ohms".
But where's the fun in that? I agree, I do find this conversation interesting. I wish those that find it rife with misinformation, would be more specific. I don't mind being found wrong, if I learn something.