So many drivers.....better sound or just more sound?


I am sitting in Seattle cut off from my job by the virus: the world all around me is going nutsy....so naturally my mind drifted to the question....."why so many drivers in some speakers?"  This has bugged me since i first heard the Pipedreams (twenty or so 4 inch drivers all the same in a row.... such a different design principle.  I would think you would want the best driver you could afford for a given application....cover the frequency range as accurately as you can afford and then worry about volume level, air moved etc.  For instance, i heard some McIntosh speakers at a friend's house a few months back.  they had 12 mids and 4 high drivers if i remember.  I guess maybe a bigger sound stage ?  That wan't obvious to me in my listening to them.   Am i missing something obvious?   Legacy speakers use like 11 drivers in a set of speakers.....how can they do that?  I would love to know the cost per driver of various speakers.    Not a deep subject but,  i am addled by rain, boredom and the fear that my 401 k is gone..........
Thanks
sm2727
I'm just going to kind of throw out some things in the hopes of spurring your interest and to tell you that there's more to a speaker than shopping for drivers. Each speaker designer is focusing on answering different problems. Hope you continue to learn.

In general, you want to search for "line arrays." thought the Legacy is more complicated than that.

Sadly, McIntosh has some ... odd resonances which make them less than ideal exemplars.

For better, look at Genesis and Infinity.  Electrostatic loudspeakers (ESL) are also kind of going in the same direction.

With all of these speakers, whether ESL, line arrays or balanced multi-way speakers, even down to simple D'Appolito speakers, the speaker designers are playing with the speaker's dispersion.  That is, how the wave travels after leaving the speaker.

On the opposite end of this, we might put co-axial speakers, or multi-axial.  See TAD and KEF for these. Instead of trying to control the dispersion.


Best,

E
Watch the GR Research Tech Talk Tuesday videos on You Tube. In one of them, GRR's Danny Richie discusses all the factors involved in loudspeakers using multiple drivers, both midrange drivers and more importantly the issues created by multiple tweeters: phase cancellation and reinforcement, off axis frequency response, comb filtering, etc. 
As other have noted, there are many issues here. But many small drivers gives real advantages (at high cost).  The ratio of magnet to piston is large (power to weight ratio, basically). Each driver is stressed less and has less excursion, therefore less doppler effect. It allows more power handling and less stress at hgih volumes. 

There are also trade-offs, especially interference, which are really complicated and i wont venture into here.
Differing tech for omni, array, full range and all in between. Imo, all capture aspects of desired sound characteristics while missing some that alternatives give. Like being I  parking lot with a dozen fun, higher performance vehicles to drive. I am out to experience them all. No two technologies the same in affect.  

Imo, hybrid line array can be better than line array, and electrostatic line array can be better than straight ESL. Hybrid full range is another kick ass tech.  Big sandbox, lots to do!  :)
Sorry I cannot answer your question.  Mentioned above is different design applications.  To me quality of the drivers is important and the material they are made from.  I prefer Alnico magnet designed drivers.  I have also experimented with ceramic drivers with great results.  I have set-up pipe dream systems also with great results.  I also recently met the owner of Genesis speakers and I was impressed with all of the research and thought out design of the speakers but that being said, in the system I heard them, I would not have even considered them. To say that I was not impressed was an understatement but again I attribute that to the system not the speakers.  I have gone to many audio shops and heard very poor sounding system and some excellent sounding systems so so much goes into the design to accomplish what the designer prefers.

I have worked with designers on many speakers and each have benefits and each have issues.  It is what you prefer that matters anyway.

Happy Listening.
"why so many drivers in some speakers?"
Depends. Reasons vary. 

The current reigning champ is Eric Alexander at Tekton. In studying the physics of sound Eric realized the moving mass of a lot of instruments (violin or guitar strings, etc) is very low, often on the order of a gram or so. The typical moving mass of a midrange driver on the other hand is often times an order of magnitude greater. Eric reasoned it is difficult bordering on impossible for that mass to accurately reproduce the harmonics and timbre unique to each instrument. From this he had the insight, low mass tweeters can do this, and if enough are used will reproduce midrange better than one large midrange driver.

So that's one. One down. Who knows how many more to go....

Tekton was the first that came to mind.
Thanks mc.
The very likable Paul McGowan of PS Audio explains one of the advantages of having many drivers:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5UwVZVvanA
Where is kenjit to settle this once and for all? :p
Lots of cheap tweeters with breakup ( non pistonic motion ) in the passband is not the answer....
Here's an even better explanation than the one I posted above:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdYubfv7HYk
I use a very large speaker system (RBH SX-T2/R) that utilizes a special layout of four 6.5” woofers and three tweeters in the top cabinet, then two 10” subs in the base module. From what I understand from the designer/developer:

The specific driver alignment allows for a very broad/uniform dispersion pattern between the speakers and a more controlled dispersion pattern to the outside of the speakers. The controlled dispersion pattern reduces reflections off of room boundaries at critical frequencies. It also allows for a very spacious soundstage with improved imaging across the width of the listening area. In affect, as you move from the center listening position to the left or right, the speaker furthest from you becomes louder and the speaker closest to you becomes softer within a critical range of frequencies. In a sense, this speaker is somewhat self-correcting relative to listening position, implying that it almost counteracts the Haas Effect .


Short answer. Sounds good



Parts Express/Dayton Audio has a speaker kit (also available as a finished product) that features an arcing array of 4 inch drivers.  I wondered what the advantage of all these little drivers could be, but it might be as millercarbon noted, that spreading the signal over so many drivers reduces the degree to which any one driver has to carry the load in terms of excursion.  I haven’t heard them, as they would require more space than I have.  But they looked interesting.  In case you are interested:

https://www.parts-express.com/epique-cbt24k-line-array-speaker-kit-pair--301-984

Good luck to you in coping with these trying times.
"The current reigning champ is Eric Alexander of Tekton."

By whose standards?????
Correction: The drivers are 2.5 inches, not 4.  
Lots of cheap tweeters with breakup ( non pistonic motion ) in the passband is not the answer....

This is what we writers call, "innuendo". Vaguely insulting, it says nothing while making equally vague claims, just really a low down waste of time all around. Thanks. Thanks a lot. You have something to say, say it. Don't waste my time with these silly little insults.
Miller have you suddenly cloned that massive ego into “ we “. ?

instead why not make a reasoned argument for breakup in the passband as self appointed advocate of the “reigning champion” ?


What I said was crystal clear to any non science denier - what is difficult to understand about breakup in the pass band ?
But in general a line array has three major virtues ( if you want the seminal engineering text on the subject consult Harry Olson : Elements of Acoustical Engineering )

Controlled dispersion and relatively high output with a low duty cycle. virtues but with significant tradeoff.

 For those of us with real tangible ownership experience w line arrays, the magic is good and the downsides significant- often the designer ( really talented engineers like Nudel ( odd he didn’t join the “ we club of writers ‘ ) eventually end up with three line arrays...which dont blend all that well... when it fells - awesome, when they don’t maddening.... where is Infinity today ? And they were built with mostly stellar drivers.

as mentioned  By others, all speakers involve trades and most engineered to a price point - enjoy the music...
As an owner of Tannoy dual-concentrics I have an innate prejudice against line arrays that just won't go away.

I know they can sound lovely, but it is what it is.
Check out the speakers made by Magnepan.  They incorporate a stretched length of Mylar as a "driver" for their speakers rather than a number of drivers.  Tweeters vary from ribbons to Mylar depending upon the model and when it was made.

You might notice the sound of the music is close to the sound of the music live as well.

Cheers!
SM2727 stay well, take care of yourself.  +1richopp.  Levity, "An long tall speakers, with music up to yar".  Apologies to Leo Sayer.  Buy the speakers your ears like, preferable after listening with your equipment and listening room.  Bryston has a 20 year warranty, I remember reading somewhere, here or there.
instead why not make a reasoned argument for breakup in the passband as self appointed advocate of the “reigning champion”
?Because hearing imposes no other obligation on us than to describe as accurately as possible what it is that we are hearing. We have no obligation whatsoever to explain our experience. That is for others. This is a long established and well known feature of Western Civilization sometimes in economics referred to as specialization.

Since you are so confused on this let me take a moment and make it real clear so maybe you can understand. When we take our car to the mechanic we care only that it comes back running better than ever. We do not care if the mechanic is able to explain and say well when I turn this screw it moves a jet that exposes more holes that lets more fuel in and so the venturi effect richens the mix and it runs better. Or maybe you can explain in exactly what way that sentence has anything to do with the fact that the car runs better? You can’t.

Sorry, but your whole point of view is wrong. Not just different, wrong.

Here, let me prove it to you. First off, beside the point but I am not above scoring rhetorical points, you have no personal experience of what you speak. Right? You have never listened to the speakers you slander with your slimy innuendo. Right? You are talking specifically about Tekton, without having the courage to use the name. Right? You know I’m right. We all do.

Because every single person who has heard them has said, nope. Not happening. Whatever is going on it ain’t what the theory says.

But that’s just me scoring rhetorical points. The real proof is this. Suppose you listen to something you know in your head simply cannot work. You have the proof six ways from Sunday. Then one day you go and listen and too bad, it does not sound at all the way your understanding had led you to believe.

My question is this: Who you gonna believe? Your lying brain? Or your lying ears?

This is in case you missed it what we call a reasoned argument. Just not the one you wanted. This is a reasoned argument that blows your whole reasoned argument right out of the water.

I would think too many drivers would affect bass response.  The real question to me is I purchased a pair of Paradigm towers which are 2 1/2 way.  Two weeks after I purchase them a friend sent me an article explaining way 3 way cross overs are better.  This was after he went with me over a year period to listen to over 60 pairs of speakers.  I felt dooped and he is no longer my friend.
2 1/2 way speakers have real advantages. Like any other speaker, cons too, but I've sometimes thought that these speakers were the ideal small home speaker.

Small foot print, high sensitivity, plenty of bass.

Are you going to find some super speaker which is better? Of course. Are you going to find a more expensive speaker? Sure.

But for the foot print, and live-ability factor, 2 1/2 way speakers have a lot going for them.
Charlie...

Ego and a poor memory ? Shall we dredge up that post of yours where you recommenced Tekton while admitting you had never heard them ?

I was very very careful to not call out Tekton because they are just another in a long list of companies using a bunch of inexpensive drivers in an excitable box. Lots of bang for the buck, if bang is the objective.

OF course I have heard them, 3 models in three different systems, 4 different rooms. they certainly have ear candy that some people like, where is that hat of yours ?????.

and since you are trying to deliver a partial lecture on comparative advantage to a retired Economist. When the car or in this case comes back with an orange peel paint job, I would ask why ?

when you graduate from ear candy you discover why your ear brain likes certain things like distortion, loud, hyper dominant leading edge, etc...some of us ask why...others are hooked on the loudness button at any volume level.
Tomic, it’s seems you have your opinion of the Tektons, that some of do not share. I don’t see or understand why anyone puts down products that they don’t care for themselves. I and many others seem to feel there’s a lot more to the Tektons than an excitable box of cheap drivers. If a box full of excitable cheap drivers just happens to sound better than a “properly” designed speaker with expensive drivers to my ears, so be it. 
So many drivers.....better sound or just more sound?
Or just BS.
Ask your self this, how can that many, even "expensive" let alone "cheap" mechanical pistonic drivers "operate in perfect unison" with each other, at up to 20,000 in/out movements in a second!!.
Ask this of them without them being perfectly matched to each other, electrically and mechanically and then have to be used in the same controlled environment they were matched in??.

Cheers George
Got to jump in on this one.  Having heard both the Tekton Double Impacts and the same with SE version and thought they both sounded pretty good, but maybe not quite what was being posted repeatedly on the Forum, I have had the pleasure of hearing the Bill Dion (grannyring on Audiogon) version of the Double Impacts where he added better drivers on the mid bass and bass and much better crossovers along with direct wiring of each driver with Duelund wire, all on a massive outboard crossover board for each speaker.  My good friend lives about 20 minutes from my house and we get together for music many times a year and enjoy the sessions greatly.  He's had Bill's DI creations for about 2 years now, but the changes in his system and finally getting the setup much better in his room, this last time caused me to have a major geek out for over 4 hours straight--almost embarrassing!  I have a very good system that has been getting better with each add lately.  BUT...I have never had that much fun listening to a stereo in the home or at a show as I did that day and probably will every time from now on.  The sound was so jumping' live, dynamic, with stupendous bass in all ways, yet the upper registers were also fantastic.  Bob is going to be a lucky fella, as am I.  I don't think my system is quite as dynamic nor is the bass quite as deeply textured and as punchy.  I'm happy for him, rather than jealous or wanting to improve my own.  It is possibly equally outstanding in slightly different ways--but the fun factor and feeling like I'm at a really well recorded show, Bill's addition to a good speaker made them as good of a Tekton as I have ever heard by a good margin.  So many drivers CAN make for a great sounding system--with nothing I could find to harp about. 

Just so I can feel the path some of you seem to feel is necessary, my speakers are on of the 2-3 greatest ever VMPS RM40 BCSE w/ MLS cabinets to have been built.  They were the reference speaker for years for Marty DeWulf at Bound For Sound until I bought the pair.  The rest of my system has been researched, tried and improved upon with a plan I started about 6 years ago.  Many of the tweaks you all seem to know are used and quite a few most of you will not have heard of, with many of the PPT products being used toward the end of assembling it.  I was a VMPS demonstrator for the several years prior to Brian Cheney's passing.  Tuned correctly there aren't many speakers systems that can match these for sound, let alone beat them except for sheer volume capability.  The pair of speakers I have and system can mop the floor with the other 2 Tekton DI's I heard.  Check my system page out and know the other parts are also up to it and work together beautifully.

I stand on my statement earlier about the fun of listening to those SPECIAL Tekton DI's.

Bob

2 and 1/2 way speakers?  What is the 1/2?
2 and 1/2 way speakers?  What is the 1/2?

When they say 1/2 it usually means say you have a tweeter and then two identical 6" drivers that both go from low bass 40hz to say 500hz upper bass/lower-mids, then one of those bass drivers rolls off at that 500hz where the other one keep going to service mid range and upper midrange to 2.7khz then the tweeter comes in.

Cheers George  
Miller Carbon...I enjoy your logical comments. Always let your ears determine your preferences. I went from listening to electrostatic speakers for 20 years to Tekton Double Impacts. The switch in speakers was driven by what I heard and not Eric's patent. I am not an electrical engineer but I know the sound that brings me JOY!
Tekton seems to be everyone’s favorite punching bag on this subject. I started in that camp too. Bigtime, in fact. But unlike most attackers, I actually purchased a pair of Double Impacts for a trial to prove the point. But, with great distress, they made my much treasured B&W 804Ns sound very bad in comparison. I was shocked a pair of 3K speakers could be so much better. Eventually I upgraded to Ulfberhts. And when you watch the GR Research propaganda video, know that none of Eric’s speakers have multiple drivers in the frequency range that would cause a combing problem. The remainder of the units are midrange drivers. Just wanted to add these facts from someone that has actually been in the same room with Tekton products. I don’t claim to be an audio engineer or reviewer. Nor have I heard every speaker on earth. But these are the facts of my experience with Tekton.
More drivers gives you a larger surface from which the sounds seems to be coming. The big flat panel speakers, like Maggies or Martin Logan electrostats, give you a "big picture. A small bookshelf speaker (LS3/5a ?), radiates sound from a small area (in sq. inches) and simply cannot supply a large "sound front." Also, with lots of drivers sharing the work, each will distort less. Use really good crossover capacitors (Mundorfs) and your speakers will sing at their best. It is easy to build really good speakers if you are not afraid of sawdust and glue. Try open baffle designs. Contact me if you like. I've been building speakers for 60+ years.
I remember Polk Audio had several model speakers with many drivers in them. I believe this was the 70s or early 80s. They where not in a flower pattern as the Tekon are. The cabinets where not as nice either.

Well I gave a pair of the NOLA ko speakers. They have ten drivers in each cabinet. They definitely don't have any disadvantage over much out there on the market. These replaced a pair of nice Dahlquist DQ 20's. All I can say is ten drivers are better than 3.
it's not the World it's Seattle.  Anyway when one driver goes out Can you really put a new one in?  i treat them like headlights 
i stay away from that thinking Designer who makes them  I'll deal with tubes not drivers & Have as good of day as you can