Okay, the gloves are off. Let the fur fly

I would like to hear one single cogent technically accurate explanation of how a multi-way box speaker can be more musically accurate than single drivers or stats. As a speaker designer for more than 25 years, I have yet to hear an argument that holds water, technically. The usual response involves bass or treble extension, as if that is the overriding principle in music reproduction. My position is that any information lost or jumbled in the complex signal path of multi-way box speakers can never be recovered by prodigious bass response, supersonic treble extension, or copious numbers of various drivers. Louder,yes. Deeper,yes. Higher, maybe. More pleasing to certain people,yes. But, more musically revealing and accurate,no. I posted this because I know that it will surely elicit numerous defensive emotional responses. I am prepared to suffer slings and arrows from many directions. But, my question still remains. Can you technically justify your position with facts?
Well I use my ears, I don't know about the rest of you but I trust mine. If I can't hear an improvement I don't do it. I find the multiple driver speakers sound more musical/lifelike, YMMV. I am sure Sean will be able to whip up some technical stuff that I won't understand, but will satisfy your question. There is NOTHING technical about music, this reminds me of the endless trolling threads about cables in particular PC's, if you can't hear the difference then don't spend your hard earned dollars, plain and simple.

I suppose a single driver can be accurate in it's own frequency range. But if a driver cannot reproduce a part of the signal, how can it be accurate? And electrostats usually have transformers that contain hundreds of feet of wire. But, I am no proponent of any particular type of speaker. I have heard many types that I like and dislike. It largely depends on the type of music being played through them.
Fact: I enjoy-- tremendously-- the music that comes out of my four driver speakers when I push "play"-- after suitable system warmup of course. I'm in Tim's camp. Cheers. Craig
i'm with Tim and Craig....the only "facts" that matter to me are my ears....technical theory regarding loudspeaker design is just that....rationalizations not realizations.

when you hear a very coherent, seamless, full range, dynamic multiple driver design like my Kharma Exquisites and compare them with a planar, stat, or horn enclosed single driver there is simply no contest IMHO in regards to recreating the original event and drawing me into the music.

this may be a case of where a "C" plan with "A" execution (multiple drivers) beats an "A" plan with "C" execution (single drivers). maybe someday enough research and energy will be put into the challenge of the "perfect" single driver to allow the "theoretical advantage" of the single-driver approach to finally win out.

i respect the many "single driver fans" out there who have a different experience than mine.....someday i may have an experience that could change my mind.

but so far single-drivers have not won out to my ears.
What speakers have you designed?
Ljgj, I had planned to stay out of this discussion so as not to color the responses, but since you ask, I'll be brief. Since I don't design drivers, I have primarily done various designs with stock/modified drivers. I started out with multi-way systems with simple and complex crossovers. I studied diligently, believing that if I could just get the right drivers and the right..... So, then I tried 2 way designs, same story. Now don't get me wrong, these were all good sounding speakers. But, all the tradeoffs. Slopes, cascading phase shifts with varying slopes, overlap problems, beaming frequencies, signal losses, driver matching, impedance fluctuations at varying frequencies with the corresponding response fluctuations, different driver phase shift angles added to the capacitor/coil phase shifts, corrective circuits, zobel networks, information loss, etc,etc. At some point, I became aware that if the whole ball of wax was simplified, more information could get through to the driver, with more coherent structure, due to the lack of the above. I am not promoting that any system is perfect. However, I am standing on the premise that more musical information, in a more coherent form will yield a more natural presentation, even if some aspects such as frequency extremes and even some dynamics are somewhat limited by the nature of a single driver. The idea being that a usable frequency range of extremely well resolved information is better than a wider range that has lost some of the information, and muddled it. Add point source imaging and my choice became clear. This information retrieval/retention theory has been standard in analog source design for years.You cannot retrieve musical information that has been lost earlier in the signal chain. I think it also applies to all other aspects of the system including speakers. I can see that I am in the small minority in this belief, but that does not deter me, nor does it mean that I am not correct. Perhaps the perfect driver has not come along yet, but if/when it does, the theory will prove itself. A driver connected directly to the amp, with no intervening components other than the necessary wire is the least offending structure to the signal we are trying to listen to.
I agree with Twl, common sense will tell you that a feather lite driver freely suspended will give more microtransient info than any dynamic driver. Planars and ribbons will also be able to dynamically rise and fall with ease. Seamlesness is not possible with box speakers using different driver construction and materials, whereas it is a natural fit for single source.
Well I am told and I will be able to atest to it eventually, that Mike's system sounds well I hate to say it............uh here it goes perfect. In fact it is common for an applause from the listeners after a song. And if I recall I don't think he is planning any upgrades, though he will try new things, it usually isn't an improvement. My question is do you applaud when you are listening by yourself Mike?? heh heh heh, my system sounds as good as yours does after about the 5th drink any way!!!! booze is the best tweek regardless of drivers!!
I let most of my fur fly about 20 years ago so will not be able to participate in that part. I am now in the SET/ single driver camp. I think it easier to get there with that approach than trying to integrate a bunch of drivers and crossover components. Notice I said easier, not that it can't be done the other way. However, I cannot get the deep bass I want from my speakers (Lamhorns) so I am using an MBL sub to fill in the bottom. I guess that means I agree with both sides. I may run for congress.
I believe that a lot of the advantages that a single driver system may have are compromised by two technical problems. First, is modulation distortion that is the product of having all frequencies in the music present and modulating one another on the surface of the driver cone. This is certainly also present in mult-way systems but an order order of magnitude lower due to the seperation of the crossover. Second, although high freqency response may be "acceptable" on axis the size of the cone used in single driver systems usually results in increasingly diminishing high frequency response the further one gets off axis. This may be an acceptable tradeoff if one wants to sit alone off axis or if one has a very live room. Of course, the obvious limitations of ultimate dynamic range, power handling, bass response and the increased harmonic distortion resulting from the longer excursions required of a small driver handling bass response are other tradeoffs involved. In the end, as in all things audio, you accept the compromises that are most consonant with your inner musical soul that defines how music communicates best to you. In my limited experience single driver systems can sound fabulous on many types of music, but the tradeoffs are not consistant with the musical model that I carry within me.
hi Tim, what i do in the privacy of my home and room is my business.....but if you must know.... i first get a big shit-eat'n grin on my face....think of how lucky i am to be able to enjoy my system....and then go to work (about 55 hours a week) to pay for all this great shit.

i hope when you make it out here to listen the system will measure up to all the hype...it is not perfect...but it doesn't do "bad" things and is about the musical message and not "parts" of the music.

someone once said; things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

i think this thread is all about technical execution, and how to remove as many barriers between the pure signal and the listener but still do the whole job to deliver the complete musical picture. my Kharmas have a series crossover....the mid-range "runs free" and the tweeter and woofer have subtractive crossovers....minimum parts count....everything is cryo'd.....my amps have no output transformer, i use a passive volume control.....neutral cables....put it all together and you have the POTENTIAL for magic.....and it seems i have been lucky enough to have it.
Actually, I applaud Twl's beliefs, efforts, and persistence. It's probably people like him that do eventually make the major breakthroughs in any field of endeavor. But as I personally don't know diddley about speaker construction or theory (and have little interest in it), as an end user I can only judge products by listening-- regardless of what they are. I'm in it for the music, and if Twl can improve on what we've got, I say he deserves to get rich and famous. Cheers. Craig
Please keep in mind that i am a fan of "single driver" or "point source" designs and own two such speaker pairs. However, being the realist that i am, i can not overlook the flaws that go along with ANY design. Nor should i think that there are only benefits to that design just because i happen to like that specific product or concept.

The basics that any speaker systems have to work with include mass, transient response, radiation patterns, resonances, impedances, output levels, Xmax ( maximum excursion capabilities ), damping / suspension characteristics, etc... One can not achieve the necessary traits with high accuracy in all of the aforementioned categories within the audible frequency range using one driver. As such, the end result of a design that tries to do so is simply a matter of selected trade-offs.

Deep bass requires large surface areas to move a lot of air and mass to achieve a low resonance. It also requires long excursion. What it takes to achieve extreme high frequency response is completely contradictory to those requirements. Clean treble response requires small surface areas to minimize beaming and low mass to respond quick enough for good transient response. Since very short and rapid excursions are what is required for high frequency reproduction, a driver that is simultaneously trying to make large excursions to cover the bass range will end up fighting itself. The end result is distortion. Measurements show that THD, IMD and several other types of distortion sky-rocket to various levels when this takes place.

Trying to achieve excellent results in one area of the audible spectrum over the other ranges results in an unbalanced approach. This is therefore not acceptable to most avid audiophiles. One can achieve a good balance of many of these attributes, but this requires compromises in almost EVERY area of performance. The normally chosen path is a driver that works best over a wide frequency range but not have to cover the extremes with as much finesse.

The end result of almost all of these designs is exactly that. A point source that sounds quite fabulous over the upper bass / lower midrange, up through the midrange and into the lower treble. If one tries to push deep bass out of something like this, the necessary excursion tends to create a "warbling" or "tremolo" effect at upper frequency ranges. This becomes far more apparent as volume levels are increased. On the opposite hand, if one expects "purity" out of the top end, then the driver must be excursion limited and this hurts bass.

As such, if one is willing to live with phenomenally seamless midrange response that is very liquid and coherent at the expense of deep bass, extreme highs and limited SPL capabilities, a single driver system may be for you. Otherwise, you'll have to choose what is acceptable to you in terms of other trade-offs and go that route. Sean

Have any of you thought about the fact that headphones are probably the most accurate and wide frequency response in high end audio. I'm talking about Stax and similar high end products, not the $19.95 Sony Walkman variety.

Anyway, the principal is the same, only difficult to pull off in a living room, compared to the tiny space between the ear cup and your eardrum.

I think this is one for Twl's side, and I must admit, I am thinking up things to keep the scales balanced.
Herman, what driver is used in a Lamhorn ? Is this a Lowther based unit or something similar ? I've read about them but can't remember the specifics.

I forgot to add that the single full range driver that i'm using will reproduce a 5 Hz signal up to appr 17 Khz tone with reasonably linear amplitude. Unlike most "full range" drivers, it can and easily does shake the floor with great authority. I found out about the "5 Hz response" when playing the Ayre Acoustics disc that was mentioned in another thread. The Cardas sweep tone starts out at 5 Hz and progresses up from there. Needless to say, i was amazed to see the driver responding at all let alone easily throwing back and forth at that rate.

In terms of frequency response irregularities, room loading is probably responsible for most of that. You see, this driver radiates in a 360* horizontal pattern so cancellation and reinforcement become critical in terms of measurable frequency response and output levels. Before you consider the omni pattern and room loading characteristics a drawback, take into consideration that it also produces the widest and deepest soundstage possible. Not only that, it also reproduces notes in a fashion that resembles most acoustic based instruments.

There are four major problems with this design:

1) It takes a very muscular amp to get it moving and keep it under control. It operates at under 2 ohms at very low frequencies. As such, you need an amp that is very low in output impedance in order to maintain a reasonable damping factor. You also need an amp that can produce sustained amounts of high voltage and current to keep the driver under control and deal with the higher than average amount of reflected EMF.

2) It is definitely limited in terms of absolute SPL and dynamic range. Some may say that it plays plenty loud ( fans of chamber music, mellow jazz, acoustic recordings, female vocalists, etc... ). As such, the more that you increase the average listening level, the less dynamic range you have above that point. In plain English, the driver will go into compression on peaks. It can play rock and very dynamic classical recordings so long as you don't ask for extended periods of high listening levels. If you do, the driver begins to produce signs of distress.

3) Since the speakers are in-efficient and a tough load to begin with, you need to throttle them with power to get reasonable SPL's out of them. If you try to squeeze a little more out of them, not only is it pretty demanding of the amp, the driver begins to saturate, overheat and "warble" profusely. As such, you have a somewhat limited window of operation with them.

4) The drivers are no longer made. As such, it is tough finding someone to work on them and do it right. This obviously tells you that they should not be abused in the least if you like them and want to keep them around for any amount of time.

With all of the above taken into consideration, if one can live with listening at low to medium levels, they sound fantastic if fed a high quality signal. After all, there is nothing to get in between you and the sound made by the system in terms of coils, capacitors, impedance compensation networks, notch filters, time and phase delays, etc... that one finds in many "high tech" speakers. The low volume constraint really isn't such a big deal, as it is one of the few speakers that maintains tonal balance regardless of listening level ( so long as you're below the point of saturation ).

All of the "good points" about this design FAR outweigh the "bad points" mentioned above. That is why i own two pairs and have publicly stated that i will never part company with them. Sean
Of course a single driver can be more musically accurate than a multi driver array across a limited range of the audio spectrum. The only problem is the effeciency in trying to generate sufficient SPL across the entire spectrum. This is why Albert's observations regarding headphones is on the mark and also why microphones are single transducer designs. Most speaker designs attempt to minimize the crossover distortions and there are many ways to attempt to do that (ie. Martin Logan, Ohm Walsh, and others). TWL what is your point?


Sean, your drivers are Ohm walsh types.
I used to own Vandy 3A Sigs w/a 300WPC amp. I used a REL Stadium for the very bottom (crossed at about 28hz). I loved the setup but.....I now own a single Lowther driver setup w/ the same REL sub crossed over at about 50hz. I now use a SET amp w/ about 8 parts that puts out 2.3 WPC. In both cases I went direct from my Wadia.
Both setups produce as much treble as my ears can detect.Both setups go down to 18 hz or so.Both play very loud without distortion. The Vandys moved alot more air, they had more punch. But I always felt that the electronics were getting in the way of the music. (This was also the case when listening to other extremely good and expensive multi driver speakers at friends ,etc.).
What NONE of the multi driver setups could do was image and soundstage like the Lowthers and SET.Not even close. These drivers (AND this particular amp-a Zen Select) are lightning fast, resulting in inner detail to die for.. There is an immediacy to the music, a nothing-in-the-way quality that is breathtaking and makes me want to listen.
There are tradeoffs in every setup. In components and money spent. I feel I just prefer these tradeoffs. This is the most sweet sounding setup I've heard and it brings me the closest to the music yet. And thats what it's all about.
Two full range single drivers, lets see. The sphere is the perfect shape for optimum radiation. Perhaps two pulsating balls hanging in air... wait, that sounds disgusting!
Still trying to stay out of this,Jj,my "point" is the interesting observation that while audiophiles seek true sound reproduction, they sacrifice some of that same truth in reproduction, in the name of wide spectrum and high volume. As you say, tradeoffs must be made. Personally, I would opt for more truth at the expense of spectrum and volume. Perhaps I am too much of a purist.I find it interesting though, that people in a hobby that seem to be microscopically involved with minute sonic details of cable characteristics and such, make the decision to trade off more music information for wider spectrum(particularly in one of the least used octaves). They make this decision fully aware that it will lead to reduced musical truth in all the other octaves of the spectrum, and seem to be happy to do so. Perhaps they subscribe to the "happy medium" theory. This is fine, if that is what floats your boat.And I have heard very fine multi-way speakers that sound terrific. And,BTW they more typically than not, do not reproduce the lowest full octave either, even with multi-way design. So, in many(most) cases you're not getting full bass anyway. And you have sacrificed some of the signal. I just don't believe that's the best way to go.
All interesting from a "technical" point of view. Sometimes "technical" does not all add up in my experience. I have heard some very nice "box" speakers and worked on a few.

Ultimately I think the box is more a problem than the crossover. Drivers in boxes do not radiate power very equally. Linkwitz has done a lot of work on this and open baffle/dipole speakers. He says a lot of interesting stuff at his site and also has a decent crossover.

I understand the less is more theory and even am attracted to it in a way. But when I look at the typical circuits in even the simplest audio chain it is hard to believe that one last filter is going to bring ruin. You do not need a passive typical cheap crossover at the end of the line in any event to make several drivers work.

I do agree that the most popular and horrible speakers are all box speakers. Small ones too. Small boxes create all sorts of endless problems but they seem to be what folks want in their living room. The woodworking is easier and less expensive. The crossovers in most speakers under the 10k level can be dramatically improved for very little $$.

When you you look at the technical weaknesses of a cone with density and mass and mechanical problems (discussed above and elsewhere) you realize that everything is far from perfect. It does not matter is you have 1,3 or 6 drivers. If you are using a cone, even the best, it is very imperfect right from the start.

When you have one cone trying to recreate very complex music you also face certain problems with break up.

That being said I am beginning to love single drivers in non conventional enclosures. I think they are especially nice for folk/jazz. I am even thinking of trying to put together a system with the fewest parts possible just for the heck of it. SET-Single Driver of some sort. I m sure this has been done before. Any ideas or minimalist schematics out there?


The full range electrostat is still my favorite sounding speakers aka Soundlab , ML Clz and the Quad 989. No not perfect but low distortion - no moving cones - and the ML and Eros hybrids get criticized for not having a seemless crossover from woofer to panel. IMHO all 2 way / 3 way designs share the same situation and are indeed hybrids plus the addition of more distortion from cone movement and trying to match drivers .

The Lamhorns use Lowthers or their equivalent. I went with a Lowther because the AER driver is 16 ohm and my amp doesn't have a 16 ohm tap. If you are looking to spend this kind of money, the Lamhorns should definitely be on your short list.


Listener did a review in the current issue.
I think TWL is being a little disingenuous with his question here. He is obviously perfectly well aware (as are all of his fine respondents above) of the various "technical" advantages, disadvantages, and tradeoffs inherent in any of the schools of speaker design. It's just that he is insistent on maintaining that such perfectly legitimate issues as high and low frequency extension, freedom from dynamic compression, fidelity to absolute volume level, and dispersion characteristics and radiation pattern are somehow not as germane to musical "truth" as the qualities he values above these. What he cannot do is "prove" that the tradeoffs he prefers are any less "technically" deleterious to the musical signal than those he disfavors. When such real-world factors as size, cost, appearance, ease of placement, ease of system matching, and the likelihood of a good-sounding overall result are considered, multi-way cone-in-box speakers will often have the advantage. Advances in the applications of digital crossovers, built-in amplification, and unconventional enclosure designs (composite materials, computer-optimized shaping and damping) may further stretch TWL's "point".
Seems to me we are once again debating the question of listening to the sound versus listening to the music. I'll concede that good single-driver systems offer incremental improvements in midrange clarity and accuracy....but at the expense of constrained frequency spectrum and dynamic range. Alas, the reality of musical production is that frequencies DO extend way up high and way down low and to lop off both ends of the spectrum is to distort musical truth really badly. When you attentuate the sonority of six contrabasses pulling a unison low E, you're not merely emphasizing one part of the frequency spectrum over another, you're actually rewriting the music. You're no longer hearing what the composer intended you to hear.

In the same way, compression is not merely something one chooses to tolerate in the interest of midrange liquidity. It is a fundamental reordering of the dynamic structure of the composition, again violating the composer's intention.

Listen to Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain on a good single driver system and then on an equally good multi driver system. You'll see what I mean.

Multi-driver systems suffer multiple problems, as many on this thread have noted. In my view, however, they offer the best chance of realizing the composer's goal and the players' achievements.

Does this make sense to anybody but me?

Twl, I understand you point you are trying to make. At a technical level cross-overless systems (which btw are not limited to single driver systems) have much to offer. But they are not perfect and as a practical matter they have their own set of real world problems. Obviously, you find that the positives of a single driver system far outweigh the negatives and you are very happy with this result. While I am happy that you are happy, we part company when you assert when compared to multi-driver systems that your single driver system represents a higher form of musical truth. Is it difficult for you to accept that some people have different motives and goals in home music reproduction than you? Being that you have basically asked this same question in another post and received numerous responses, what is you motive for this current post?
I think bishopwill and viridian gave excellent responses. I'd just like to weigh in with my agreement.
Bishopwill. Yes I understand and agree with your points. I also agree with Twl's points.

It is not possible with current technology to build a perfect speaker. It is possible however to build a wonderful speaker that compromises sound in one way or another.

I think this is an excellent topic for discussion, and although I am an avid Soundlab fan ( a single driver), I have posted time and again here at Audiogon in favor of Vandersteen, Audio Artistry, Avalon, Kharma and other fine multi cone driver systems.

I am very much enjoying the discussion, and can easily side with either point of view. In fact, I do.
I also share Albert's point of view, in having heard many multi cone driver systems, which I enjoyed immensely. But it was for pure musical reasons that basically I've always reverted back to single driver systems for listening at home and then rather concentrated on overcoming their shortcomings, while building on their strenghts at the same time. The outcome was a hybrid thing, not unlike the HQD System of yore, but depending heavily for musical reasons on the difficult to beat midrange rendering of stators, where afterall most of the music is.
Touche' Zaikesman.
I tend to think that a compromise may be in order. I own a pair of Ohm speakers and it does sound like Sean is describing them in his post. Somewhere down the line when the recession ends I plan to add a subwoofer to my system. This will lessen the amount of work that the Walsh driver's are having to do. I doubt that this will hurt the sound stage and imaging much while allowing much greater overall SPL's. I won't know until I try it though.
7p62mm- Great moniker!!!! full metal jacket? lol
Okay, guys, I think that you all are presenting some great reasons for your choices. Contrary to what any may think, I don't hate box multi-way speakers. I also agree with those who said things about the tradeoffs being personal choices and even those who felt that my idea of musical truth was different than theirs, with both being valid for each individual. I very highly admire those who valued their ears' judgment over all else. To Onhwy61, who questioned my motives for this thread, my reason was to see how seasoned audiophiles come to make their decisions on a tough issue like this and to see what criteria are most important to these people(all of you) in speakers and systems as a whole. And to see if I was using faulty reasoning in my decision process that I could not see myself. I am impressed with the depth and scope of your responses and feel proud to be associated with such strong minded and knowledgable folks. I would love to hear some of the super systems that some of you have assembled. And I have shared much info on several threads about mine, and why I took the approach I did. If I didn't think that the one-way system was good, I wouldn't have promoted it as strongly as I did. The reason being that I wanted to share the experience with all of you, as well as my reasoning behind it. I like to post threads that are thought provoking and controversial, because it seems they get the best ideas flowing. I've become a great fan of this forum and love to participate in the discussion, even if I may seem highly opinionated. I thank you all for your participation and valued opinions and look forward to more discussion and great listening with you all in the future.
In reality, most single driver systems are compromised in dealing with the real world business of playing a full orchestra. It is my opinion, that the quality of the bass, can in a large sense determine the quality of the upper ranges on a loudspeaker. Unless a single driver speaker,(Quad), is crossed over to a capable and dynamic woofer system, the reproduction will in fact be compromised. Real world live music, does not sound lightweight and lacking in dynamics. The fundamentals in weight and authority in the bass regions are mandatory if you ever hope to "be in the ballpark" of the live event. Since I have yet to hear a single driver do all of these things, I am with Bishopwill on this issue.........Frank
Just a quick story: Some fifteen or twenty years ago, I worked in an acoustics lab where we decided we wanted some realistic sounding speakers. We grabbed a B&K lab condeser mic and a Nagra tape recorder and recorded one of us reading a passage from a book. Then about 6 of us went from one stereo shop to another having the person read the passage while standing next to a speaker and playing the tape through a Crown amp (Nagra, Crown, and cables constant for all stores). We went back with several pairs of Dahlquist DQ10s. -- Now this issue of truth. Seems to me that my system (no longer using DQ10s) is capable of creating an illusion of a solo cello that really pleases me. I have no idea if it sounds anything like the cello that made the recording. I'm also not sure that it matters. Cheers.
Twl, given some of the responses here, i'm going to start another thread. It is related to the comments here but is somewhat of a different subject. As such, i don't want to dilute this one too much or steer it completely off course. Look for one titled "SPL, dynamics and bottom end". Sean
Danner, thanks for the story. I find it to be quite believable. Only two problems though:

1) Crown amps are great for pro sound, but they typically just don't sound "good" : ) At least your test method ruled out a LOT of variables.

2) Dahlquist speakers are not "realistic". You can only get those from the Tandy Corporation : )

Well, now that TWL has revealed himself to be the "agent provocateur" some of us suspected all along, I will add this caveat to my comments above: It is doubtlessly true that many speaker manufacturers' design "choices" are in fact dictated to some degree by the selection of conventional OEM drivers available to them (when such manufacturers don't make their own). This, plus the the existing body of engineering knowledge pertaining to the building of yet another dynamic box design, makes it much easier for a start-up to enter the fray with this type of product, rather than to finance and carry out all the research that would be needed to bring new technology in single-driver design to market. Seen in this light, one might conclude that not only is the dominance of multi-way dynamic boxes somewhat self-perpetuating, it may actually be inhibiting the further development of potential alternatives.
Zaikesman, I completely agree with your insightful observation on the box speaker evolution/development. I hope that in coming days, you could change your view of me from "agent provocateur" to "interested participant with a unusual point of view" or something. You obviously look for more in these posts than just the factual statements, or you wouldn't have even noticed a two pronged approach in my question. So maybe our points of view aren't all that different. I can see that your insight is not limited to the box speaker development path. I very much look forward to having the opportunity to have future discussions on this forum with people like yourself. After all, audio is not just the equipment alone. It is the interaction of music and the listener that makes the magic. The perceptions of the listener is at least as important, if not more important, than the gear producing it. Cheers.
TWL - Of course that descriptive was meant in fun. Your statement at the beginning about slings and arrows - maybe you're trying to catch some where there are none? No need to apologize for having a point of view here (or to ride in on a Trojan horse just to stir the pot!). BTW, I happen to have a fascination with line-source panels, and hope to one day own some as well (my speakers are Thiel CS 2.2's). But in the meantime, do you have any hot suggestions about what to listen to in the way of crossover-less single-driver designs? Cheers yourself!
From a simplistic view, I might ask: if a single driver speaker system is -40db down at 25Hz, could that be considered musically acurate? While it is clear that many trade offs are made using cross-overs, such as the current being out of phase 90 deg. This fact creates a strong argument for electrostatics. Please don't hammer me if my "numbers" are not factual, I am simply trying to present a point.

Cheers, Paul
Zaikesman, I currently use a Fostex FE103 based single driver system in a tubular transmission line configuration, tuned to 41.7Hz. Since the FE103's are only 4" drivers, they will not be everyone's cup of tea. But they are common in high end systems here and in Japan.I drive them with a 1 watt Berning OTL and they give me satisfactory results for my application. With the impedance curve mods I did, and the T-Line loading, the 41.7Hz bass response is achieved. I am not in need of lower bass than that for my listening. SPL levels are low by most audiophile standards, but reasonably loud levels are possible without much compression except on full symphonic and heavy rock. Jazz, vocals, pop, folk,etc. are breathtaking in detail and naturalness, and imaging and soundstage is typical point source perfect(dare I say it?). They won't rock the house down, but I live on a large lot and when I walk the dog, I can hear the music faintly from 30 yards away with the windows closed. They do not suffer the usual HF rolloff of single drivers because of my impedance re-curve mod.(also greatly helps bass response.) So a usable bandwidth from 41.7-20kHZ is not bad for a single driver and SPL's in the upper 90's to boot. The whole ball of wax ran me $250 for the pair. Now, I've worked in high end audio stores and been around, so I've heard plenty of good stuff and these babies are good! If you really need that bass kick, then you could cross in a sub pretty low and you've got it. But when I put on Sade(Best of)I can feel that low bass in my body - with no subs. This type of design can also be done with 6's or 8's too, and you'll get more SPL and lower bass that way. But, the 4" is fast,light, and easy to control at all frequencies. As this whole thread demonstrated, tastes vary. Whether you could live with this sound, I don't know, but I sure can.And I saved alot of jack in the process. I've heard multi-thousand dollar speakers that can't match these within their limitation range. So, if you can live with lower SPL,bass to 40HZ, some compression in the really big music, and stunning, highly detailed and natural sound in all other aspects, these will please you.
Fascinating thread here, Twl - spinning into something more like a tapestry, I'd say...

In my experience, the most fundamental quality a speaker has to get right is tonal balance. This implies adequate bandwidth and a non-irritating midrange. After this, personal preference dictates what priority is placed on clarity, timbral shadings, harmonic richness, coherence, dynamic contrast, soundstaging, bandwidth extension, maximum usable loudness, and so forth.

As an owner of and dealer for both single-driver and multi-driver systems, I think that in the lower price ranges the multi-driver systems are generally the better set of compromises. Then at higher price ranges, single-driver systems begin to overcome their bandwidth limitations, and become much more competitive. As an oversimplified general trend, I'd say below five grand mulitiway systems rule, while above ten grand I'd lean towards single-driver systems, and in between I'm not sure.
Paul, you are correct on both accounts. A speaker down 40 db at 25Hz or any thing like that could not be considered accurate at that frequency. The question is what do you do about it? This has been the discussion above. Read some more above posts, because I can't write a book again on it here. In you crossover statement, basic simple crossovers shift 90 degrees out of phase on a 6db slope. Most audiophile speakers will use 12db because that slope is 180 out, and can be compensated for by switching the polarity on the appropriate driver. 18db slopes are 270, and 24db slopes are 360 or 0. This is simplified theory, but there are other methods used to address phase shift. As for electrostats,the "full range" types are single drivers, albeit a different type than cone drivers. (Some stats use multiple panels though)
Thank you Twl for the crossover explaination. Looking back, I think I have gone in "your" direction. I had stats with a poorly matched subwoofer. I yanked that sub, and although I was missing a great deal of bass, what was left was much more "musicaly acurate". I still have stats (ML SL3's) and have since gone the SET route. First with a Decware Zen Select and most recently Decware Integrated. So much more involving, albeit without the bass. Willing to compromise, next step, to add an REL Storm sub. I hope that it is quick enough. Great thread! Lots of valid points made, and surprizingly civilized.
Paul, glad to help.
THE THIRD ALTERNATIVE... To follow up Zaikesman's excellent post of 4-01...the real world factors" that put very serious considerations on the SOUND LABS "conquror of the boxes"...IF you can afford...IF your wife likes the new furniture...IF you can find the proper placement (room size factor)...IF your favorite amp will accept the demanding low ohm load...too many "IFS" for me at this point in hobby and life..the 3RD alternative for me is choosing the SUPERIOR drivers you would like in your design...and not having to buy the "commercials" that choose for you...IF the "POPULAR" labs put the drivers i mention in a design their markup brings us into the SOUND LABS price range..and we don't want to go there..21ST century drivers are : FOCAL midwoofers and midrange,PHILIPS RT8P isodynamic tweeter,ESg1,ESg2 ribbons,RAVEN1,2,3 ribbons,MENGER full range,TRIANGLE full range...with a good designer you can put together a far superior speaker for alot less than whats offered in your local hi-fi shop..these drivers with superior xover components (HOVLAND,SOLEN etc) would better the SL's is some aspects, the one factor that comes to mind is the price differential $1500 to $2500 VS. $8K and UP UP...AWAYYY! AND i get to keep my amp of choice. To complete the full range of frequencies we will need a superior sub that makes the intergration work, FOCAL WX11 WX13 WX15. This kit choice is just a possible 3rd alternative,not for everyone, but for me it's the only way to go.
Fascinating thread! However, I can't grasp the out of phase comment in Twl 0402 post: if, say, a multidriver speaker is out of phase, the musicality & timing (prat?) will be lost -- irretrievably? I mean, even if I reverse the polarity at single driver(s) or speaker level, I won't get the phase/timing corrected, surely -- rather, something has to be done @ crossover level? Or am *I* irretrievably confused (most probable)??? Cheers!
Greg, now you're getting somewhere. One can correct a lot of the problems of a multi-way system simply by getting rid of the passive crossovers or at least minimizing them down to the bare essentials. This is what Israel Bloom does with the Coincident's.

However, one still has to look at how the individual drivers will sum at a specified distance, play with their positioning on the baffle and then study the lobing / cancellaton / reinforcement that takes place. Then re-position accordingly and study some more until you've got everything as good as you can. This becomes even more critical if you aren't using any crossover at all, since you now have to select drivers that will have complimentary frequency response curves and roll-off rates. VERY tough to say the least.

To take things one step further, you can remove ALL electronics from between the speakers and use an active crossover. This gives you direct drive ( just like an amp driving one driver ), greater efficiency from the amp, FAR more detail, impact and lucidity than with a passive crossover, etc...

Then all you have to do is make sure that you've got all your amps gain matched, use good quality amps and crossover, take into account the lobing and positioning of drivers, etc... This is a LOT of work, but it is also probably the highest fidelity that your going to achieve if done correctly. Obviously, this is strictly my point of view and others may / may not agree. Sean
Greg, the phase problem you mention is only one of the many phase related problems. Phase induced distortion/coloration is another. Sure, there are methods of addressing these problems. My contention is that the cure is generally worse than the original illness. If I told you that your system would sound better if you would just wire-in a few transformers and capacitors into your speaker cables, you would think I was crazy. And you would be right! That is essentially what a crossover network is. Except, it is calculated to achieve the blending of drivers in multi-way speaker systems. Sometimes it is done very well. Most times it is not. When high end mfr's. tell you to wire-in transformers and capacitors into your speaker line, nobody thinks they are crazy. How come? Do you ever remember hearing a small table radio or old car radio that sounded really good, even though it was small? Alot of that "goodness" can be attributed to the simple speaker setup, driven direct with no other drivers or parts. Now table radios(boom boxes) and car stereos(rolling boom boxes)sound like crap, but they have plenty of bass. Such is the case with 98% of the multi-way systems today. There is a significant segment of purchasers who will place bass response over all else, and buy the "least offensive" big-bass speaker, and claim it sounds great. Maybe it does. This is subjective. I'm quite sure that the owner of the pulsating Nissan that reverberates subsonic shock waves through my house every morning on his way to work, thinks his car stereo sounds great, too. Now that I think about it, I could probably get rich designing a new single driver system utilizing a 24" driver that produces high SPL and only responds from 10HZ-150Hz. This is the only part of the frequency range that seems to matter these days, anyway. Maybe I could name it the "Seismic Oscillator" or "Primal Thump". Any takers?