opinions on modern horn speakers

Hello kind souls on the gon ,Do any of you have any opinions on the sound of some of the new horns on the market? Like the oris , avantgard or ?I have owned most types of speaker systems, many very pricy and popular,All sounded souless compared to a good horn on a SET amplifier .Have any of you experanced the same? Or the oposite?.Many people say that horns are in your face or honky sounding .I have only heard this out of antique horns and PA gear .Just wondering if others have a opinion on this .Thxs for your time .JK
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I currently own Avantgardes and am extremely pleased using 2A3's. I also know that Rethm and Beauhorn make wojnderful sounding speakers using Lowthers. I do NOT hear any honk or in your face issues.
After many years as a Maggie fan I haveswitched to Lowther Medallions PM2a and a 3.5 watt DH SET amp. I couldn't be happier!
Honky, I feel is true of older designs. The Avantgardes, and even better the A-Capellas are defentitely worthy of a try. Especially the latter, if set up right, can even give the best of stators a run for their money.
In Beuhorns I don't hear any honking but don't hear any bass and details as well. They're simply bass-free speakers.

Avantgarde is an active system with active dynamic(i.e. non-horn) woofer(well except Trio that has bass-horn that needs quite a space and costs like Mercedes 500 series). I listened to Uno and Solo and realy was impressed with fast woofer and horn integration. The horn in Avantgarde could be driven with OTL since its impedance goes quite high.
modern horn designs for most part sound o.k. with some types of music but they are unforgiving of all but the finest source components and source material....all in all a bit too restrictive for this old rock and roller,who finds that most of his favorite music needs to be forgiven a bit.
Acapella makes the only full-range (by using hybrid driver techniques) horn that sounds like a single-driver, has all the benefits of a horn speaker and none of the disadvantages (well, except perhaps size). These are the best general-purpose speakers made today (and they do rock-and-roll just fine :-) but like most speakers the better the upstream components are the happier you will be. While "high-quality" solidstate sounds quite good with them, on the bigger ones, with the higher efficiencies, a single-ended triode like an ML2 could be very well be the best pairing since... Rogers and Hammerstein, or Martin and Lewis, or.... the dynamic duo?

-Mike (Audio Federation, Acapella dealer, some time rock-and-roller)
I listened to the Avantgarde Duos quite carefully in a friend's system with good associated equip including SET tube amps. Very dynamic, as they claim, and a fundamentally "pure" sound, probably due to needing very few watts. But in the end I could not live with them. There is a very definite residual horn coloration to the sound. Maybe others can ignore this, as it isn't nearly as bad as older horns were, but I can't get past it. It is nearly impossible to design a (practical) wide-band horn that completely eliminates this, despite what some may claim. The laws of physics can't be revoked, only bent.

In addition, the plastic horn cones themselves were significantly coloring the sound due to internal resonances. I know Avantgarde hypes this material, but anyone with any knowledge of materials science knows that their particular approach is bound to have serious resonance problems. It's economical to manufacture, but lousy for acoustics. There are other horns that avoid this problem by machining the horn from solid laminated wood, for example. Vastly superior and also much more expensive.

Lastly, the physical separation between the various drivers was highly audible to my ears, making it impossible to relax into the music and believe the illusion of "being there".

I don't want to sound too disparaging. They do some things spectacularly well, dynamics being at the top of the list. But everything is a compromise, and I personally can't live with the compromises being made here.
Marakanez, i do not disagree with your take on Beahorn Virtuoso, i believe you were talking about. However, they sure sound way too good, despite those shortcomings! That was the only way i would listen the SET amps!
You have never heard dixieland jazz reproduced well until you hear it through a horn speaker. Just switch to a different speaker for other kinds of music.
Von Schweikert has offered an alternative to the horn market with their DB-100's, which are 100-db efficient. They are paired with twin 600 watt SS woofers. I have 300 hours on them so far and I think they are terrific. Extremely dynamic with the bass response horns can miss. Their's no coloration that I can detect.

I have 42 watts in triode pushing them which is more than enough. I have gone back and forth on an SET but I think I wouldn't get the slam, even with 100db.

And, the price was very right. 6k which included delivery. It seems like almost noone has mentioned this speaker. It's received glowing reviews from the few that have heard it.
Karls,I have owned the avantgard duo 2.2 and heard some of the plastic colorations but they are slight [all speakers have colorations] ,I also have had problems with vibrations in my oris 150 trihorn but since its DIY I tuned them out for the better .I also did not like the driver integration on the avantgard or my oris horn but again DIY solved that problem by using dual horns perside and lifting the woofers up the the aqustic center of the speaker.Iam also working on a metal plastic composite horn should have no resonace problems,Thanks for your reply JK
Marko445,I have owned almost all of martin logans speakers inc ,prodigy.They where souless compared to horns also owned sound lab and maggies,same souless sound impresive on a quick listen but not a speaker for the long term listening,at least to me ,thxs for your reply
JRD ,My oris trihorn can play old rock ,punk and poor recordings .Sounds better on old tunes then any system I have owned, SET amps are very forgiving and if its good music it will be real fun to listen too .Thats one of the reasons I went horns is so I dont have to play audiophile recordings to get great musicality .Take care and happy listening
Richardmr,vons are great speakers and sensitivity is one of the best ways to get great sound .Right now Iam building a 100db speaker based on a ribbon tweeter and PHL mids and woofers .Prototype sounds great, woofers will be 100db so all will run on 1 amp.Will cost arround $2500 just for parts and build so retail would be arround $4000,So vons not so far off on the price on the DB100S after all .Have you tried a 300b set or 845 ,They would run your speaker fine [depending on room size] .And sound better in the mids than a push pull.Take care and happy listening
My horns sound great on all music no need to switch .I have a friend who wants to trade his avolon edilons for my horns thought about it but I would sell the edilon to build a new pair so...
BD DESIGNS WEB SITE ,The pics are under John Kalinowsky first pic .They do look better in person.Thanks for the responces .JK
If you are near Ohio, you might want to try attending the Midwest AudioFest in Lima, OH which seems to be held each year in the spring. There are lots of horns and high sensitivity/efficiency systems on display there. Then you can draw your own conclusions. I went this spring. I have been wondering about these types of designs for a while. I would seem that many audiophiles start out with dynamic box speakers or planars but end up (later in life) turning to horns and SETs. I had wondered if that was perhaps because of one of two things.

1. They know something that I don't.
2. They have become senile.

My impression of most of the horn (and compression horn) designs is that -

1. There is no sound stage
2. Many of the systems will try to split your skull open
3. I still prefer planars.

Except for the Omega room and the Venus HiFi room I did not like any of the systems on display. Both of these two rooms used single driver speakers with the fostex drivers. The latter was the Cain & Cain "Abbey" using a Voigt pipe design driven by an Audio note integrated 300B amp (M3 ??) and a Audiomeca Obsession (?) CD player. but you mileagemay vary. And I encourage you to see for youself even if I did not care for them.
over 99% of all music recorded from 1960 through today was(and is) played back, mixed,and mastered using push pull amplification and conventional dynamic drivers. the idea of an artist, engineer or producer spending hour,days,and weeks listening to music through a horn, powered by a 3 watt amp is always going to be something best left to a faction of audiofiles seaching for musical enjoyment...and theres certainly nothing wrong with that.
JRD .I do quite a bit of work in studios .Alot have horns for main monitoring or at least the tweeters are horns .Also horns use dynamic drivers .FYI
Aroc ,owned the abby, nice speaker for $1500. I helped U.V.A. become a cain dealer ,but they are weak in the bass and highs . Dont know what you mean by split your skull open .Maybe they have too much dynamic range for you or where demo to loud [happens alot at shows].No sound stage??? My horns sound so real the artists are right in front of you if thats where the producer mixed them .I have a solid 19ft sound stage on most recordings way better than my martin logans ,sound labs or maggies could do .Still perfer planars. I used too till I purchased good horns .Also senile ?? Iam only 38, hope its not happening allready .lol.Thxs for your reply
i work with every major studio and lab in greater los angeles to some degree, and i've had the dog and pony show at each one of them...i've never seen any horn in any room with the exception of some older jbl hybrid designs or ones used for public address systems(and they were all dormant).....i'm not knocking modern horn designs. i happen to admire some... i just know that for the vast majority of music lovers they will always be an oddity.
JRD alot of the studios I have been to use TAD ,Seems to many studios use those terible yamahas ,I love it when they cover up the tweeters .LOL
Interesting thread! For my part, I have been quite impressed with a number of modern horn systems, and especially enjoyed attending the Midwest Audio Fest this year.

My (ever-changing) theory of loudspeaker quality is this: A loudspeaker must do something magical (timbre, soundstaging, dynamic impact, etc); and then it must avoid distracting you from that magic. A speaker that does nothing wrong but nothing magical won't draw you into the music, and a speaker that has (for instance) magical imaging but a boxy sound will destroy the illusion almost as fast as it creates it. While we all pretty much agree on the magical aspects, our sensitivity to different sonic aberrations varies significantly from one person to the next - therefore, we have widely varying opinions about which speakers sound "best".

A high quality horn system can indeed be magical. While I do not presently sell a line of horn-loaded loudspeakers, I hope to change that before too long.

Horn speakers are usually hybrids - dynamic woofer with horn mid/tweet (exceptions include corner horns like the Klipschorn and Hartsfield, Burce Edgar's Titan, and Agantgardes with the opional bass horns). The discrepancy between the radiation characteristics of a dynamic woofer and a horn presents a challenge. JBL did a superb job of integrating a horn with a woofer in the old 4430 (and subsequent derivatives) - they matched up their respective radiation patterns at the crossover point. Among current generation hybrid horn systems, the SP Technologies line is to the best of my knowledge unique in fully embracing this approach (though they trade off high efficiency in exchange for deep bass in small boxes). Classic Audio Reproductions speakers also do quite well in this area.

In my experience, Avantgardes are extremely lively and dynamic, with superb imaging and pretty much negligible horn coloration, but I can hear the transition between woofer and horns. The wide pattern of the woofers puts lots of low-frequency energy out into the reverberant field, while the narrow pattern of the horns puts relatively little mid and high energy out into the reverberant field. This can make the bottom three octaves or so sound a bit slower and thicker than the rest of the range.

Like JohnK, I have heard very precise imaging from the Avantardes. I personally prefer the considerably wider sweet spot and more enveloping sense of ambience you get from a well set-up pair of Sound Labs, but that's a matter of personal preference - obviously John perfers the Avantgardes. Not all horn systems image well, though, and in my experience they tend to have a fairly small sweet spot both in terms of imaging and correct tonal balance.

On the other hand, a good horn system typically gives you superb dynamic impact and liveliness and sense of presence. This is magical. And as long as you aren't distracted by their relatively minor little aberrations (no system is perfect), a good horn system can certainly give you goosebumps. I tend to prefer a good planar or a good horn system to a good conventional direct-radiator dynamic system.

I would like to offer my customers very fine loudspeakers at seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum: full-range planars and high-efficiency horns. I haven't settled on that horn system yet, but I'm still lookin' and listenin'.

Try to audition Avantgarde Solo active monitors and you'll know that transition issue had been resolved.

The Solo is indeed an ingenious design with its equalized coaxial driver complement. That 18" diameter shallow horn around the woofer starts to progressively lose precise directional control below about 750 Hz, though, so directionality at low frequencies isn't all that great. Walk around behind the Solo to test my theory. I suspect you'll hear the tonal balance change and become more bass-heavy. If precise directional control at low frequencies was maintained, the tonal balance would not change as you walk behind the speakers.

Please don't take the foregoing as a detraction from the innovative design of the Solo's - just a commentary on the inevitable physical limitations. I haven't actually heard the Solo's yet, but my impression at this point is that they're very well thought out.

I have heard a pair of Rethms being driven by a low wattage DNM amp, and it was the most dynamic and detailed setup I have ever heard. And my setup is no slouch when it comes to detail and imaging. I am getting some Loth-X Ion 1's early next week and am interested in hearing how they sound with my new low watt tube amps also...

I'm by no means an expert on horns but recently had the oppotunity to spend some quality time with the AG Solos at their Manhattan dealership. BTW, the owner, Bob, is a super guy and a total pleasure to deal with.

The Solos are an extermely dynamic and detailed speaker and produce a soundstage which is quite impressive given the not huge size of the speaker. The horn tweeter and woofer implentation was excellent which is to say seamless, in my view. With the Burmester #2 CD, the Solos were impressive wether it be with Steve Ray Vaughan's guitar or Radka Tareff's gorgeous voice on "The moon is a harsh mistress." It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was one of those speaker auditions where I felt totally taken by the music without any care of the equipment used.

The downside is that these speakers can totally destroy anything less than a high quality recording. The Eagles "Hell frezes Over" redbook is considered to be a quality recording and I have always believed this. On the Solos, the recordings digititis came through loud and clear. After two tracks, we had to switch to the Burmester which was followed with DCC golds.

It would be interesting to someday see a passive version of the Solo at a price point which would be much easier on the old wallet.:)

Jet, the beauty of Solo is in its active integration imo.
Duke ,I perfer the oris horn to the avantgarde duo or trio ,Beside the price diferance my DIY oris horns integrate way better than a trio and have less resonance problems .Avantgarde uses such weak steal in there frames the horns move arround quite a bit. Also the drivers are easly localizable .My dual oris 150 trihorn has time alined horns and bass towers. All drivers are as close to the acustic center as posible .They sound like a large electrostatic with huge dynamics and real musicality .When I changed over to horns I didnt want to lose what I like about planels.Theres a pic of my prototype trihorn on the BD designs web site show room first pic .Thxs for your reply
Jposs, my good friend owns rethems the first model forgot the model, has a 8in lowther pm3 think? nice speaker ,Full range drivers are a good place to start .But full range is not really true. You will have reduced highs and bass but what a glorious midrange .I have owned and build single driver speakers ,now most I use super tweeters with .And dual subs .I think on first listen this is why so many dis fullrange drivers .But they dont know what there missing out on .Musicality.Thxs for the reply
Jet, the reason why the solos sound bad on poor recordings is the solid state amplifiers used .Heard them .I have also experamented with solid state on sensitive speakers .Only works good for low frequincys .Most solid state is grainy and unforgiving also the pure soul of the music gets lost .Sensitve speakers and quality SET amps have a certain majic to them that you can not really experance unless you try it in your home .Home auditions are where you can really get the feel for the gear .Thxs for your reply
I go to lots of live concerts (chamber and full orchestra). My Avantgarde Duos most closely reproduce the experience. No audio system including surround sound ='s ive, but Avant garde based systems seem to be the best approximation I have heard. They are easy to locate and easy to drive. The only real downside is that they will let you hear the upstream components and software.
Hi Gang! Very Intriguing thread! We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect speaker!The better horns can indeed create a very credible illusion to live sound as well as any other design[and sometimes even better].The better planars and e-stats can certainly ceate their own magic as well.There are some fabulous moving coil speakers that can also create a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.I personally, have never really been much of a fan of the traditional horn based speakers from yesteryear... as I found them to be rather forward, generally hollow, honky and somewhat coloured across their frequency response.I have always been an Electrostic fan. Before you horny speaker fans start flaming me! Please read on. I should Qualify a few thing first.In my college years [early 70's]; I owned and operated a medium sized Disc Jockey company with 10 systems out in the field.I used mainly Klipsch Lascala's,Jbl 300's, and Altec Lansing A-5's and A-7's and rented countless others. That said:of all of the different speaker types out there:the poor horn loaded designs are probably the most maliciously maligned speaker by the so called "high end" movement than any other design type.The nature of the beast is very very difficult to implement in a LARGE room let alone a typical sound room in your home.Tuning them to a room to get them to sound tonally coherent is a feat in itself! Making them disappear like a good line source monitor or planar, is a major feat to be sure and an "art" all to itself! HOWEVER: IF one can accomplish this elusive goal.....It truly is "magic" with a capitol M and then some. Yeah... Give me an M....give an A.... give me a G....give me an I....give me a C...what's that spell.......M A G I C! I know, I sound like a damned cheerleader cheering on loaded horns...Your damn right.. I am! Pushing the envelope of that antiquated speaker design with modern day technology can only be a good thing and will inevitably yield some temendous advances in the reproduction of the "recorded arts" in our homes.While I have heard only few of the modern horn loaded designs mentioned above.... I have heard some louther based designs and the latest advantegarde designs, Set up with a good source,Quality electronics,and properly tuned to the room.....Yes, they can certainly make magic indeed.And yes.. I can easily hear the discontinuity of the bass dynamics relative to the speed of the horns.As I mentioned earlier "no speaker" is perfect and never will be.However, they do a so many things so right,Many things that a lot of the other high end pretenders can only hint at!Can you imagine if one could have the bottom octave speed and midbass resolution of the soundlab a-1 and add the dynamics of the advantgarde system.How good would that be!We need to encourage these designers to push the design even further.I have been an electrostatic speaker fan and user most of my adult life. From Quad 57's,stacked 57's,Dayton Wright xg-10s, Acoustat 2+2's with servo driven OTL amps to soundlab A-1's.Damn...I even stacked 2 pair of Dayton Wrights XG-10's!To this very day,they produced the finest bottom octave yours truly has ever heard,ever! A year ago I sold my beloved A-1's for horns.....YES...Horns...Yikes!Am I crazy or what![my lovely wife thinks I'm certified] no no.. not your traditional honkers of my DJ days and no... not advantgarde's either. I had to hear these 350lb monster Tannoy Westminsters in my studio. Nooooo, I did not buy them because they sounded better than the Soundlabs, they do not.[ the soundlab A-1 is the finest all around speaker I have ever heard bar none!]However...My cavernous room in my studio is almost too big for the soundlabs[36ft x 27ft with 16ft ceilings] and room lends itself to better "overall" sound with the Tannoys.To be candid...the Westminster is the closest thing to the sound of a good e-stat that I have ever heard period.And that includes the advantgarde's.Coloured,forward,honky. "NOT" There isn't even a hint of those flaws whatsoever.Horns don't image you say.... these monsters simply disappear completely, without a single note or notch of frequency sticking to the cabinet.Totally holographic from anywhere in the room.Sit down,stand up,lie down,walk around... it does not matter... as the tonal balance never changes. No other speaker system could do that in that room,not even the great soundlabs with the big Atma-spere 2.2 mk2's driving them! With any good live recording,the performers and the instruments are real life size in scale.Percussive instruments float as in real life.They can simulate the full scale dynamics of a concert grand piano[my favorite instrument] in all its glory from the bottom register to the top like no other speaker I have ever heard. They give me goosebumps down the back of my neck almost every time I play a well recorded piano!The Dynamic Range is one area where almost all of the bigger horn loaded speakers really shine.The tannoy's are downright scary at times and if I am not paying attention to the gain of certain recordings, Bill Evans has come real close to breaking my windows.I have always loved electrostatics for their uncanny ability to retrieve fine micro detail and nuance at very low volume levels without masking or compressing any of the dynamics .In my books.. this has always been a fundamental flaw in too many speakers. This is another area where the Westminsters[and most loaded horns] are extrodinary. Never even a hint of compression regardless of the volume. That said: If the tone is at all out of skew, this big advantage can really be a real serious liability.Perhaps... one of the reasons why horns got that proverbial honk handle.A few months ago we hauled in an old pair of 70's vintage Klipsch Lascalas....YUP...sounded broken... honkey, somewhat bright and ragged,whompy bass,very forward with a giant hole in the middle and no sound stage whatsover.Shoved them around for a while,angled them in to the listening seats[much better], we sat down to listen to Ry Cooder...Jazz [LP]... For those familiar the first song on side one.Well old Big Bad Bill never ever did turn into Sweet William Now... because we yanked the Lascalas long before we got to the chorus line.Are the Westminsters perfect? Nope! While it doesn't have the bass integration problem of the Advantgarde,I much prefer the mid/lower bass resolution of the big Soundlab .Geez gang....Maybe I should try using a big Krell......Ya think?.... "NOT" ....Cheers Gang.
I doubt if modern horns are better than the best old systems. Remember that horns existed then because there were no powerful amps. I have had the VOTs, the Exemplars, the Avantgarde Duos and Trios, and Beauhorn Virtuosos. I must prefer the Beauhorns as they have no crossover and no problem with integrating the sound as they have only the Lowther driver.
I have seldom heard honk from horns, probably because I have listened only to better ones. I have always heard pace and dynamics to horn that no other design can rival. I gave up on horns for about 20 years but will never do so again. One of the luxuries of horns is that you can use the best amps which tend to be low powered.