Speaker of the Century Award Goes To ....


The 2.5 way speaker.


You guys probably thought I was going to fanboy over a brand, and I'm not. I'm going to fanboy over a speaker design. IMHO the 2.5 way speaker is THE ideal high end speaker for the majority of enthusiasts.


First, what is a 2.5 way? It is a speaker with 3 drivers, but the mid range lacks a high pass filter, so  it shares output with the woofer.  It has a number of advantages over smaller and larger speakers:
  • Similar footprint to stand mounted 2-way speakers
  • Ideal bass output for apartments and modest homes
  • Easier to integrate than big speakers
  • No subwoofer
  • High sensitivity compared to a 2-way using similar drivers
  • Reasonably priced


A number of brands have taken this approach including:
  • Focal
  • Joseph
  • Monitor Audio
  • DIY kits like the Klang Ton Ophelia, and Zaph Audio

So for the average enthusiast who is not a San Francisco billionaire I argue here (for the sake of an argument) that the 2.5 way speaker should be considered one of the great technical innovations in terms of users and results.
erik_squires
Box speakers suck.

Small box speakers suck even more.
Any electrostatic loudspeaker subwoofer or not. Dynamic drivers suck.
electrostatics, magnetic planar speakers suck. Couldn’t swing a dynamic range signal to save their lives.

All they’ve got is a few db of leading edge to fawn over... and after that... it’s all distorted crap. This is true, to a perfect T, as it's right there in every FFT analysis graph ever printed and looked at... for any panel speaker. All of them. 100% of them.

Right back at ’cha.....

Now I could harp on dynamic driver systems and kick them to the curb too, but that’s already been done..so..I’ll just say I’ve owned and liked all types of speakers over the years.
<< whew >> for a moment I thought this thread would degenerate into a thoughtful conversation about the unique pros and cons about 2.5 way speakers, but I can see my fears were unfounded.

It’s a shame so few have heard the Eminent Technology LFT-8b. It has about the same size footprint as Erik’s 2.5-way, but stands 5’ tall. The LFT-8b can actually be considered a 2.5 design; it has a pair of planar-magnetic midrange drivers (180Hz-10kHz!), a ribbon tweeter (10kHz-up), and an 8" woofer in an enclosure (180Hz-down). Though it is on the low side of sensitivity (though not to the degree Maggies are), it is an easy 8 ohm amplifier load (the panels are 11 ohm, for those who choose to bi-amp). Feed it with a 100w/ch tube power amp, and enjoy!

Robert E. Green’s review of the LFT-8b in TAS begins with: "The Eminent Technology LFT-8b is an extraordinary speaker." Following adjectives include "distortion as low as electrostatics---but with lots of dynamic oomph", and "The low distortion in particular is striking; these speakers are capable of really beautiful sound", and "speakers that in some respects are among the best there are."

It is Green’s description of the LFT-8b producing "sound floating in the air at ear level---where it belongs---with no sense of vertical compression the way point sources do", that makes planars my choice of loudspeaker. $2499 will buy you a pair of LFT-8b, or a pair of Magnepan LRS and a coupla (or four ;-) subs. ’Tis a great time to be a poor audiophile!

@bdp24

You bring up an interesting perspective, but it is exactly that the 2.5 is  ubiquitous and the ET is not that makes them, in my mind, the clear winner in terms of market and mind share.

But I don't fault the form factor! :)

Best,
E
PS - In case anyone is wondering, I used to have Focal Profiles, and now use a 2-way.  I still think the 2.5 way speakers have a really great combination of features that, as a speaker "type" is hard to match.


Best,

E
Another brand: Avalon Ascendant
The Janszen Valentinas that I use are a 2.5-way design: cone woofers and a electrostatic element divided into two parts, only one of which reproduces the very top frequencies. I like them a lot, though I'm not sure how much of that is due to the the 2.5-way part of the design.
Mike,

I don't think that being a 2.5 way makes a speaker better sounding, but more convenient! :)


Best,
E
Many three driver speakers these days, with a tweeter on top with two woofers below... can be looked at as likely being 2.5 way-ish.

A large number of the paradigms that have been built in this fashion are 2.5 way speakers.

Again about the planars folks, don’t get me wrong, I like them all too. Dr West makes some fabulous ones...and if you want to talk about complex designs, there’s a good place to start...
I’ve owned Spendor that was a 2.5 way design and they sounded outstanding. My friend has the Proac D48R and it is another great sounding 2.5 way sounding speaker!
My answer to the original post is: None 
In order to be a "speaker of the century" it would have to be a lot better than anything currently being manufactured. There are so many wonderful transducers, it would have to show dominant superiority, and currently there is no such technology.  Imo, a 2.5 way is a nonstarter for such an award.  YMMV  

Sorry DS, that's not the criteria I am using. :)

The "Speaker of the Century" is about what's best for the median enthusiast. What speaker is great sounding, affordable and live-able.
Under these criteria, the 2.5 has a lot going for it.

The whole point of this thread is to put entry to mid level enthusiasts front and center. Leave the super speaker reviews to the rags. :)
My set of "augmented one-way" UniField 3 MII speakers are pretty great.  So I nominate this design for consideration.  For what that may be worth.  Most likely nothing, to anyone other than me.  Highs, mids, lows, imaging, beauty both in sound and visually.  
Eric, I understand you are in an apartment, and your post does cater to listeners of the same sort. But, I feel, if a speaker ( system, actually ) cannot handle musical peaks in the 110db range ( of course, using recordings that have wonderful dynamic range, not just playing loud ), whatever the design, I would not want it. And yes, I am a horny kind of guy, lol. My ears, btw, still measure well, for a 65 year old. Enjoy ! MrD.
@mrdecibel 
Totally understood! You should get what is best for you. :)


But we can't really call Horns the most popular speaker type either. :)


Blessed are those who can afford a dedicated listening room.

Best,

E
Enjoy my 2.5 way Vienna Acoustic Mozart Grands very much. Well more than that. Erik with your parameters I agree a 2.5 way has a lot going for it. It can be looked down on by some because it makes a few more compromises it seems like from an explanation from speakers builders, but not much on sound
Eric, I appreciate your friendly and adult response, as I did not indicate anything negative, only to say, what I like. And yes, horns are an old design. But, as I mentioned on another thread a few weeks ago ( I believe it was your thread " designing a pair of 60K speakers), I brought up the famous and popular Dahlquist DQ10, and, with no response, btw, from my post. I indicated it had relatively inexpensive, off the shelf drivers, and was a 5 way design. Everyone I knew ( even myself, a horn user ), owned a pair. I asked for an explanation on why they were as wonderful as they were, and I know folks who still think they are ( I am not one of them ). My belief is all speaker designs can be wonderful, and as a given, nothing is perfect. But, I believe you said it best, and completely agree. " Whatever works for you ". Enjoy ! MrD.
Erik is right about a 2.5 way having a lot going for it. It is perhaps the best choice for audiophiles that must share living space and audio gear (no dedicated room). I put my Dali Epicon 6s in this camp. No need for a sub, darn near full range and big, gorgeous sound. My wife is good with the looks and size so this 2.5 way is a win/win in our home. Many want that full range sound and must place the speakers in a shared living space. Based on his criteria Erik is spot on in my estimation.

As an aside, placing my rig in our open to kitchen living room was the best thing I ever did for enjoying music. We have music on all the time and now my wife enjoys with me. So sweet! I am no longer alone in my my music cave!

You can see our shared room and rig under my virtual system.







Teo you are so wrong. I get 110 db out of my ESLs and the only limit is amplifier power. You will never find a dynamic loudspeaker with near the realism of a floor to ceiling ESL which obviously you have never heard which means you have absolutely no idea what a top 1% system sounds like.
The Sound Labs and Acoustats may play @110 dB, but my old Quads sure won't ;-) . Not sure about the Sanders, Music Reference, Martin Logan, Kingsound, and others.
The wharfedale diamond 230's are a 2.5 way speaker that received numerous positive 5 star reviews from 2 or 3 publications. At only 600 bucks on discount a steal!
I live alone (no WAF),, I have owned Accoustat 2 + 2s, Genesis Vs (HPs own pair!), Nearfield Acoustics Pipe Dream prototype aimed at < $4k)  Magnepan 3.5Rs + 2 SVS subs. Other than the Gen Vs and  the Pipedreams (which although 6 ft rhey had ~ 8" face): I should have kept them! I consider all the others room dividers (bad Feng Sway). Since I owned the 2 SVS subs I also tried mixing them with satellites but my room is too large and the SVS subs volume controls SUCK. They come on full blast with the VC barely cracked

For the last 2-3 years I have enjoyed the hell out of Emerald Physics KC IIs (MSRP $1999-2500) They play all kinds of music wonderfully. As I improved my other components and cabling, I stopped using the subs. I often think to plug them back in, but never seem to feel that they lack bass or depth

And they are less than 4ft tall fitting into many non dedicated room situations
Play 110db, kiss your hearing goodbye. Or, maybe it already is gone. Not advisable. I can tell you that you certainly are getting plenty of distortion at 110dB. But, hey, if you like distortion... Some audiophiles think distortion sounds great. Not my idea of something an audiophile should boast about. It's like saying, "Look at how much distortion I can generate!"  :(
DS, What did you say ? I can't hear you...So many loud sounds around us in everyday life. Horns from nearby cars, construction site machinery, planes flying above ( likely near an airport ), live unamplified music, lawn mowers, NYC subway platforms, movie theaters, etc. When I listen to music, peaks at 110 db are never constant, and as far as I and my ears are concerned, it is not distortion. It is rare that I do " open up " the system at those higher levels. But when I do, it is wonderful. I would not own a main system ( or the associated room and environment ) that could not oblige. But I do agree, wholeheartedly, that " constant " exposure to these levels are dangerous to ones hearing. Enjoy ! MrD. 
I am 65 and can still hear 18,000 Hz just fine. I do not normally play at 110 db but I do have a sound level meter and the system will go that loud w/o distortion. A comfortable loud volume is 95 db.
Tweek, properly set up Acoustat 2+2s with sub woofers and 200 watt class A amps are so much better than Pipe Dreams which could not throw an image to save their lives. 
BDP  We use to stack quads and with Hartley sub woofers. We could get 95 db out of them but we still use to blow one a week or so. 
I am 65 and can still hear 18,000 Hz just fine.


Are you positive?  How did you determine this?

That is extremely unusual.

I'm 55 and have protected my ears.  When I get audiology tests those giving me the tests usually express surprise, saying I have the hearing of a younger person.

Until recently I could hear up to 15K, but that's dropped to 14K (with a little dip around 4K).

Age related hearing loss takes an even steeper decline usually after age 60.


So I have to admit some skepticism about your claim. 



while i own and enjoy a very nice set of 2.5 ways, i do hear some midrange congestion compared to previous 2-way and 3-way systems.  not bad, and these speakers are touted for being among the best in this category- but still noticeable.  
i would rather have a true 3-way system, especially if it allows bi-amp capabilities.  
First, what is a 2.5 way? It is a speaker with 3 drivers, but the mid range lacks a high pass filter, so it shares output with the woofer. It has a number of advantages over smaller and larger speakers:
I've always seem this as a poor implementation. I get the idea- the mid bass/midrange driver goes down pretty low, so if you crossed it over, the crossover would impose a coloration due to the size of the capacitor(s) used.

But in practice they are problematic. Of course from my perspective this nearly always means is a bad load in the bass - meaning a lower impedance so more distortion from any amplifier. But further, you can have doppler effect distortions from the mid range unit as it can have a bit of excursion, unless carefully damped by a sealed box, but that does not solve the problem of the voice coil having to absorb a considerable amount of power!

Now for the anecdote: YG Acoustics was advertising at RMAF a few years back that they made the 'best speaker in the world' bar none. I went to audition their speaker at RMAF; I brought with me Peter Gabriel's 'Rabbit Proof Fence/Long Journey Home' soundtrack. In the first 30 seconds or so is a fairly large bass note. I played it at a level that I can play easily at home on my Classic Audio Loudspeakers. When the bass note hit, the mid/bass driver rattled quite loudly! against that wire cover they placed over the driver. I think the salesman thought it was some sort of synthesizer midrange note played loudly but it was really something that should have shook the room. I can name plenty of speakers that don't do this.


So I don't buy that this as a good technique at all. I've always viewed this approach as a bit sloppy and I don't think I'm going to be easily convinced of otherwise.
avanti,

it could be your speaker cables. Recently I made a huge SC upgrade and was blown away at how they cleared up issues I never would have thought was SC related
High frequency hearing acuity is almost irrelevant since 99% of musical energy is below 6KHz...

@atmasphere’s post reminds us of why electronically separating a woofer from the midrange/tweeter drivers can provide better sound; bi-amping, with an outboard x/o over dividing the signal before the two power amps, one amp for the woofer, the other for the m/t. Done so, nothing the woofer does (amplifier power supply demands, back-emf, etc.) effects the m/t drivers, the same with the woofers’ amp.

A side benefit of this arrangement is that the component values used in outboard x/o’s are generally of much lower value than those in speaker-level x/o’s. Line-level components are much cheaper and smaller than speaker-level ones, and can have less of a sonic signature.

Then there is the matter of the physical vibrations created by woofers. With the woofer removed from the structure housing the midrange and tweeter drivers, the m/t are free of the structurally-transmitted woofer vibrations, a good thing. And, with the woofer in its’ own enclosure, if the x/o frequency is low enough that enclosure can be located so as to optimize the woofers' performance, the m/t drivers to optimize theirs’.

I understood the concept of isolating the woofers from the mids/tweeter decades ago. Also, rarely will the sub couple the room properly in the same plain as the mid/tweeter

Acoustic Fields (YT channel) provides a number of useful videos for subwoofer placement that many will find shocking

A couple decades ago I bought Sunfire Signature subs and over a decade ago 2 SVS powered subs. Alas, they bring their own issues to the party, mostly due to poorly executed internal electronics for volume control and XO.slopes. So if you're going to do this IMO go big or go home


And bi-amping is so very simple, inexpensive and easy to do in space limited environments. :)


2.5 - Way speakers tend to sound better than 3-Ways IME. The only affordable 3-ways I can imagine living with are Vandersteens. 

A couple years ago I owned some relatively affordable 3-way towers from Monitor Audio that were praised by many in the audiophile press. I have zero doubt my $200, 2-Way Advents would annihilate them in a blind listen, absolutely no contest.


Helo, Monitor Audio had a few " lines " of speakers, and I agree that the more affordable lines left a lot to be desired. But, if you are saying that the Advents are, by todays standards, capable of annihilating them, in what specific areas of music reproduction are you speaking about ? I appreciate you enjoying the Advents, but I would have to disagree with the severity of the term annihilate. I can tell you, many details, speed, and spatial characteristics, would be better on the Monitors. Maybe not the warmth, or coherence. I enjoyed, at the cost back in the day, my stacked double Advents, in a 2ndary system. We all hear, and appreciate some things, differently, Just saying. Enjoy ! MrD.
SPEAKER OF THE CENTURY?  That's like saying who made the best automobile in the last 100 years!  But I would say that some of the most
SIGNIFICANT achievements in sound reproduction belong in two categories. 1.definitely Magaplanars.-astonishingly real authentic music.
I could EASILY overlook their shortcomings, but that's me. 
2. A 20-20 speaker that has some minor limitations. That IMO is the Eggleston Andra, with an unbeatable tweeter without diamonds, a near perfect integration from top to bottom- which goes down below 20Hz.
Unlike the B&W 801 Matrix (the audio end of the road),you DO NOT need 
the most refined front-end componenets to get them to sound good.
It would help to get something good, like a good CDP, etc.
So IMHO you either get the Maggies (3.7's are incredible), or you get a 
box with an amazing crossover, and superb drivers in an MDF heavily braced cabinet as good as you really need to stop resonances.
You save money and you can play them as loud as you want. Placement and set-up you can do yourself. Play a piano sonata on them and tell me they don't sound like you went out and bought a Steinway. There are better speakers for $100,000 and more, but they tend to be overwhelming- they.move too much air. LIKE A FANCY restaurant that, Instead of serving you a steak dinner, they bring you the whole cow. 
The only thing I would say is the best in anything human is Bach .
In speakers the sweethearts were AR-3 's .
One could argue the best selling speaker of all time is the speaker of the century . But as far as performance , time alignment , quality of build , design firsts and out right copied from is the jbl L7 .  My vote. 
The one thing that most will agree on is that any speaker is compromised.  You need to find a manufacture that you like as we all hear differently regardless of room interactions etc...  

All type of speakers have their problems regardless of what folks may want us to think.  That's where marketing comes in.  When you go to a store and listen to totally different systems and listen to your own ears (most have heard live music) and not to what you are being told/sold, you will make better choices.  I'm so hard on speakers IRT being hot or dull.  I know that I enjoy the Vandersteen line for what I can afford.  I've heard speakers in the ranges I can buy as well as a ton from 15-250k or so and have an idea of what is out there.  

Most speakers are so much better than what we got only 15 years ago,  We are blessed to have the choices we do.  
2.5 - Way speakers tend to sound better than 3-Ways IME. The only affordable 3-ways I can imagine living with are Vandersteens.
I find the opposite to be true.
So it would appear that execution has a lot more to do with it, as is so with many things in the audio world. A lot also depends on what is 'affordable'.
@French_fries :

You are arguing car brands, while I am arguing vehicles. To completely overuse this metaphor, I argue that the 4 door sedan is the vehicle of the century. I’m not arguing which brand / model, but that overall, this type of design has a lot going for it for most consumers.


Of course, there are always those who insist a super car, or mini van are THE ONLY POSSIBLE CHOICES.


Best,
E

IMHO the 2.5 way speaker is THE ideal high end speaker for the majority of enthusiasts.
Interesting take but I can think of some "affordable" 3-way designs that check most of your boxes. Years ago, the Joseph 2.5 way was on my short list and I briefly considered Avalon, Focal and Monitor. Pretty much everything on my more recent short lists have been 3-ways.

I'm now running the Thiel CS2.4 which is a "3-way" but has single high- and low-pass filters. The tweeter and midrange are coaxially mounted and use a *mechanical* crossover. To my knowledge, Thiel was the only manufacturer of such a design. Similar coax drivers were in the CS6 and CS7 but those designs added mid-bass *and* bass drivers, each with its own filter. The coax in the CS2.7 and CS3.7 used separate filters for the tweeter and midrange. According to Tom Thiel, Jim Thiel planned to return to a mechanical crossover for his uber CS7.3 which was never completed.
I owned a Audio store for years  and went to many shows.
my all time  favorite speakers  when setup properly were 
the Great MBL -101 Ultimates , even without the extra bass columns they just disappear and sound like you are there. 

Call me old fasioned, but I like monitor sized three ways with traditional cone woofers, midranges and a well executed dome tweeter. I had some JBL "L" series speakers, back in the day, and lost them in a divorce. I intend on buying a pair of Wharfdale Littons, Btyston Mini T's or A's or if I hit the lottery, Harbeth's or ATC's. I realize this configuration calls for complex crossovers, but to me, this type of speaker covers the frequency range well and a dedicated midrange makes vocals soar. I don't have the space for line arrays, panel electrostatics or any of the cool sounding esoteric speakers mentioned above. I commend all of you who do.
my all time  favorite speakers  when setup properly were
the Great MBL -101 Ultimates


Oh, yeah, there's three other audiophiles in my apartment with those ...

Whatever you can afford that makes you want to listen more.
Eric makes some very valid points, regarding a speaker design well suited for the combination of affordability, smaller available space for set up and environments with close neighbors.
My hands down favorite speaker that I ever had or auditioned, the speaker that drew me most into the experience of a live acoustic performance, was the Apogee Duetta Signatures. Definitely not a speaker well suited for small spaces, close neighbors and tight budgets though. So what qualifies as best, is quite relative......Jim  
ANYONE who plays a musical instrument and likes either horn or box speakers has a hearing impairment.

Go out in front of the current orchestra that you play in/attend concerts by and LISTEN to the MUSIC in the room they are playing in.  THEN, go to another room and the same MUSIC played by the same orchestra will sound different because of the room.  Conductors know this and make adjustments.  Even some amplified bands know this, or at least the people who run their shows know.  MANY do not, and thus live amplified concerts are mostly a waste of time and money except for rabid fans who don't care about the music.

ROOMS are more important to music than speakers.

Having typed that, I suggest that everyone go to your dealer and pick up a few pair of various kinds of speakers, take them home to YOUR ROOM and listen to them.

Buy whatever sounds most like the orchestra to you and be happy.  I predict that those who play and/or attend concerts often will choose what sounds closest to live.  But maybe not...some musicians I used to serve at my shop were not really LISTENING to the entire orchestra, but only their own section.  Error!

Cheers, and enjoy the MUSIC!