What are the specs of a full range speaker?

I've noticed that this term is used pretty loosely around here and I'm wondering what you think of when you read it in an ad. What does "full range speaker" really mean? Is it 20Hz to 20 Khz? I've always considered it to mean a speaker that reaches down into the 30s with some weight. What's your interpretation?
No single transducer can handle a full 20 to 20khz frequenc. In the olden days, acceptable single driver to wideband drivers, typically covers from above 50's to near 16 khz signal, something that specs out like 80-16khz, or 70-15khz, enough to have a crossoverless mid; and no associated phasing problems than typical designs that employ crossover. Some people attest too that these driver units are better off partnered with tubed electronics. System integration? most likely.
A speaker that has strong output at 30hz may not be truly fullrange but is plenty of low bass for most music.

Room lock and room shudder are a couple of terms I like to use...room lock sets in around 30hz (or so) as you feel the bass grip the room, we've all felt it I think...feels good.

Room shudder sets in a bit below room lock and can cause the whole room to literally shudder depending on how strong the output is...mostly movies and some New age music come to mind.

The Apogee Scintilla does 20Hz to 20Khz. There must be others.
"Full range" gets abused because it sounds nice but here is a reasonable practical check: Whenever a company feels the need to employ two or more driver to reproduce music, then none of them was not full range.
Stereophile ranks (in thier component recommendtions) speakers as full range if they are relatively flat from 20hz to 20khz. They have a second category for those that do not which includes speakers which have a 30hz to 20hz response. At least they did when I subscribed some years ago.

However I agree with Sogood51, a speaker which is spec'd out as flat to 30 hz produces a lot of bass and you may not miss that last part of an octave much.

A speaker which "reaches down into the 30's" is sort of a meaningless description. What is important is the rate of fall off when it hits its lowest 'flat' output. For example - flat to 60hz could still have some minimal output in the 30's but it would have little impact on the sound, whereas a speaker which is flat to 45hz might well have, depending on the speaker/cabinet design, a -3db frequency response of 35hz +/- which could be quite respectible, depending on the size and dimensions of your room.
You probably mean a "speaker system", judging by how a number here are responding in a way that seems to equate "speaker" with "driver". In audiophile circles it is always good to deny whatever has been sound thinking for many years in favour of arguments that are tenuous at best, and pure folly at worst. I think that the most often agreed upon idea is that a “full-range” speaker system should ideally cover 20 Hz to 20 kHz, but that if it falls short on the low end by ten or twelve Hz it can still be considered as such. On the bottom end I don't think anyone should fret if it doesn't go down all the way to that point as anything around 30 is plenty of bass. The absolute bottom is more felt than heard and integration into the room is not always obvious. In the treble range what is mind-boggling is that many believe that the response should go way over 20 kHz when most adults can barely hear beyond twelve/fourteen kHz. All this will never stop subjective audiophiles from arguing all manner of things until they are blue in the face.
Pbb said:
"In the treble range what is mind-boggling is that many believe that the response should go way over 20 kHz when most adults can barely hear beyond twelve/fourteen kHz."
You're the first person I've EVER heard mention this online, even though I've silently wondered about it for years. I remember from the old days when "high bias" cassette tapes listed a frequency response extending up to about 16,000 hertz, and an audiogram I had a few years ago showed a slight rolloff at 12,000 hertz. They normally only tested to 8,000 hertz, but had the capability to test up to 12,000, which I requested and they did. Twelve thousand hertz is REALLY a high frequency, yet we audiophiles classically consider 20-20,000 to be "full range," and then sometimes go even further by purchasing super tweeters (out to 50,000 maybe?) and subwoofers (some going down to under 10 hertz).

I can say unequivocally that the Rel Storm 3 makes a big positive difference in my system. I cannot comment on supertweeters, other than to speculate that they may be useful in repelling insects and rodents, both of which have higher frequency hearing capabilities than do humans, even audiophile humans.

So.....I agree with the generally accepted 20-20,000 as defining "full range," but like Pbb I wonder if it's overkill on the high end.
I don't believe there is a formal definition of "full range speaker." As such, it pretty much means whatever the person using it wants it to mean.

At the least demanding end of the spectrum it could simply refer to any speaker system that is designed to be used by itself (i.e., not specifically made to be used with a subwoofer, etc.) Such a definition would include speakers with limited bass below 50 or 60 Hz.

At the far end, one can insist that a "full range" system needs to solidly go down to 30 Hz or below.

A similar argument can be made at the high end. As such, I consider the term fairly meaningless.
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Goroi- I was referring to speaker systems of any kind, not just single driver systems.

Sogood51- I like your "room lock" and "room shudder" concepts.

Newbee-The passage says "reaches down into the 30s WITH SOME WEIGHT". Is that meaningless? The meaning was clear to me but maybe it didn't translate well.

Pbb- Thanks for taking this where I had hoped it might go. What use is the inaudible? I personally feel that the whole absolute sound model steers us away from a relaxed and pleasant music listening experience and causes us to grip our chairs and squeeze the last note out of our equipment.
Why are so many of us so obsessive?
Ultra-low frequencies have the power to shake the walls, and physically
pressurize the room. It adds to the visceral experience of say, a really big
diameter pipe.

High frequencies do none of this. Their reported presence in an audio system
just feeds into psychosomatic twitching of true believer's brain.
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Inaudible content on the low end can be detected by the body because it shakes the floor, ceiling, walls, etc.
How would we detect inaudible high frequency content?
Maybe it's because I grew up attending a Catholic cathedral on Sundays. The organ play made it all worthwhile. I loved both the huge bass pipes to the ethereal strings.

Away from church, for twisted fun, I tortured the neighbors Shitsuitsu with a dog whistle. It was cruel, but I did learn dogs hear more than we do.

I once read the reason we hear between 20 and 20k, is because that encompasses all that is relevant to our survival. I'm sure that explanation doesn't wash with birds and dogs.

I'm one of those extremes that hears way high and soft. I don't know how many times I hear bright and grainy, when other listeners just hear highs. That leaves me agreeing with the dog, hearing UHF is not all that it's cracked up to be.

All I know is most systems are truly deficient in the 20-20k range, I don't know why anyone would want to perfect what they can't hear before they get what they can hear right.

Maybe it's because most people have trouble hearing above 14Kz they don't hear the deficiencies that their systems scream out between 14Kz and 20Kz.
For me above 15.5 Khz I hear nada....so I would agree that linearity in higher frequency response in a system is not very important to me at least above this level.

I respect that some can hear up to 20 KHz and when I was younger I could hear somewhat higher than my limited upper range today... so it is relevant.

Above 20 Khz, however, I have a hard time accepting there is any need for a system to reproduce these...maybe my dog appreciates it.

Low frequencies seem audible somewhere between 15 and 25 Hz to me...not that I don't hear something lower but that I suspect the sub excites vibrations in the walls which may be principally what I am hearing or feeling (some of these excited vibrations undoubtedly include higher harmonics and rattling which are clearly audible and are really added "distortion" but they make for convincing effects in movies). I have not found that higher frequencies (above my hearing ramge) are capable of inducing lower frequency audible harmonics in the room...the sound or test tone just disappears for me.

IMHO, due to the range of my hearing and for the added distortions that ultra LF excites, extended low frequency response is more important than extended high frequency response.
Tvad, because the low frequencies can be felt through your body as anybody who has contact with a system playing super low frequencies will tell you. Only very few researchers believe that high frequencies are felt through the bone structure of the head. Anything that turns you on is all right as far as I'm concerned, but I still think that defining terms and agreeing on basics is too important a subject to always put forth the exceptions to any given rule or a way-out theory as being what should be given prominence in these discussions. Call me crazy!
Pbb has a good point, what is the most reasonable range, which he says is 30hz through say 16Khz. Hoover joins in with agreement and is hapy to see someone actually post this. My speakers go to 40hz and so far have been satisfactory enough. IOW when I play the New Orleans Jazz complitaion and another compliation Blues cd, both very high quality sound recoding, the bbass fills the room. Thats at between 1/4, 1/3 volume on my 40 watt tube amp. But considering I mostly listen to classical, i'm now ready to get at those fq's from the bass, cellos, tubas, timpini's, the 30hz-40hz. IOW I want a new experience from my classical with that added bass. Now the 20-30hz's I'll be missing. But as Pbb mentions just how important are these super low fq's, how much will they be missed? How often in classical are these fq's there? In solo piano there's not much below 40 I'm sure. Yes the piano can go as low as 20, but how often do composers work in that low fq in piano scores and even in orchestral. Rarely.
And the upper range, who knows from human hearing when a tweet rolls off at 20hz, and other tweets at 22Khz? I'd guess on the jazz and blues cds there is more going on in the 20Khz+ range than in my classical. But those tweets that go up to 22Khz+, are they delivering quality superhighs, 22K-25Khz? Are are the highs sort of "fake" sounding, tinsel-y/ metalic, IOW fatigueing? That is do tweets that go as high as 25hz+, is that upper range for real? Also is they are designed to go too high, then how well do they meet the mids of the lower drivers? Which is why my seas' tweet does not sparkle, but instead has a bigger bottom end and meets the midwoofer with seamless resolution. I do not lmsii the 22hz+ that the Seas seem to not deliver on.
So I'd say full range is 30hz - 18Khz as Pbb mentioned.
I'll read the other posts here. Some great comments are being made and we are carrying audio one step further to a PROPER understanding. For too long audio knowledge has been in the dark ages, and audio labs have taken full advantage of our ignorance and pushing its bull on us.
Muralman:"all I know is most systems are truly deficient in the 20-20Khz range(meaning problems in qulility of reproduction of the original source)..I don't knwo why anyone would want to perfect what they can't hear, before they (first) get right, what hz's they can actaully hear". Agree, before we run after the 20hz-30hz/20K hz-25Khz, first how does the speaker reproduce the 40-18K hz?
For me its more important taht a speaker offer a seamless image in the meeting of the bass/mids/highs,, that it is to get at the 20-30 and 20Khz+ range. Actually 30hz is my bottom range I'm interested in. I alreday have a speaker in mind that fits the characteristics I'm looking for.
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I've heard speakers that are rated at +/- whatever from 30-20K that do not *sound* full range to me. They reproduce deep bass but without the *weight* I associate with truly full-range speakers. Perhaps Room Lock and Room Shudder describe that experience of weight. Do those happen automatically if a speaker reaches down to 30Hz? My guess is room interaction is a huge factor in whether or not they do.
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Bartokfan, any speaker that can fulfill the music demands of the genre you like is full range.

Still, there is something hair raising about 18 - 29 Hz, If the room is accommodating. There is a surprising amount of music that dips way down, like Laurie Anderson's Monkey Paws, or almost anything by Bjork.

Even a grand piano's lowest key vibrates at 27.5 Hz (A0). To reproduce a grand piano's full voice your speakers need to be flat through 27.5 Hz. Also, whatever driver is producing the low octaves needs to be fast, in order to sound realistic.

My Scintillas flat line through 20Hz, way into sub woofer range. I once ran a Stereophile Test CD's frequency sweep on my system. The first clue the CD was running was when CD cases started falling out of their stand onto the floor. The tone moved up the scale seamlessly to out of hearing with nary a waver.
Tvad why would you be "more likely" interested in a speaker that goes down to 25hz /model A slightly less interested in speaker B that "only" goes down to 30hz. Like someone mentioned the most important factor is how well does the speaker perform in the CRITICAL MASS AREAS of 30/35hz through 15K/18Khz. The woofer than may go as low as 25hz, might not meet the midwoofer/midrange "as seamless" as does the 30hz woofer.
I don't place as much importance to the 18K-20Khz area as well. Considering orchestras offer little in term sof above 15K hz;'s. But in jazz/bules its nice to have a clean vivid 18Khz voice.
I question the validity of supertweeters. If your speaker is a good one, and flat lines up to at least 20 Khz, then, it seems to me, in the audible range, the supertweeeter is merely doubling the speaker's high frequency output.

These ultra high frequencies tend to go unnoticed when in balance. Emphasizing them will produce an upward balance that seems more airy and alive, but does not correlate with real music IMO.
Mural I just googled Scintilla, and came up with Apogee Scintilla Sterophile review by AHC. Once agin I do not understand much of what he is saying, and hardly believe a word on the things i do understand. Once agin audio reviews are near worthless. btw I do not like ribbons/planars/panels at all, none whatsoever. I could care less how low they go, the overall image doesn't work for me. I'm strictly a traditional cone affeciando.
supertweeter = superhype. Suupertweets are good for HT sound effects, nothing more.
Another point to consider in all of this is the variable degree of honesty and precision with which different loudspeaker manufacturers report their products' frequency responses.

Even assuming total honesty and/or accuracy of reporting, another question is this: How steep is the low end rolloff? For example, we all know that minus 6 dB at 20 hertz is NOT the same thing as minus 1 dB at 20 hertz.
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Bartokfan, there are a four Scintilla reviews to choose from. They all contain
the same praise. Believe it, or not, it's factual. Apogees unfailingly took, "Best
of show," at Audio shows. Apogee was chosen to flank Mozart's piano at the

Those reviews were written in the mid-eighties. There are amps much better
up to the task of powering 1 ohm speakers now.
Tvad, you are not understanding what Muralman is alluding to about the "supertweet" 's ability to hit the 23K-25K+ range. What he is getting at is , just because the hz's are produced, are they being "mechanically fabricated" that is are the supertweeters stretching some fq's that are in fact in the recorded medium, but do these super high hz's meld into the overall image , that is keep in line with a seamless soundstage.
If you want to haer a first class tweeter, go to Tyler's web, and look at the list of addresses for home demo of his speakers. One may be near your location. This to me is a balnced tweeter. Though it gives up the very highest fq's, it makes up in the "beefier" bottom where it meets the midwoofer. This is the supreme quality of a tweet, how well does it merge with the midwoofer. Reemphasing that I am not really interested in the highest hz's, there 's not much there in classical music. Jazz and blues buffs may have a different goal for their "ideal" speaker.
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Thanks for clarifying. I've never heard a 'super"tweeter before. But I imagine its "super"imposing something on the recorded medium. Adding something that is "really' not there. You have Apogee's correct? Thats a panel ribbon yes? Well those do not produce the highs and lows very well from my experience. They do provide a interesting soundstage, a big one...provided you are in front row, sitting. It would get on my nerves if I move around and the image cahnges, "the sweet spot' moves.
Tvad said:

"Not intending to be argumentative here...merely "debative", but it seems to me anything that contributes to a more airy and alive sound also corresponds to the illusion of real music."

I have not used super tweets before " more airy and alive" does fit with what people who have used them have described to me. It may be like the deepest bass thing...not something you hear outright but still can detect (although not in the same way we detect deep bass, ie...massive amounts of air movement). Maybe some degree of upper freq harmonic structure is reproduced from the recording that (normal?) tweeters can not dig out, but can be detected when reproduced.

Deep bass:

I have two full range speaker systems...one plays well below 20hz, the other is flat to 30hz...both fairly large mass.

The differences are both "very small" and "huge"...depending on choice of music, (or movie). Mostly small for my musical tastes which are Jazz/Blues/Rock.

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What a great thread! Very educational.

From "my" point of view and experiences I no longer use the 20 to 20K benchmark for selecting a speaker.

In the late 70's I was 'spec crazy'! I would not consider a speaker for purchase if it did not boast the 20 to 20K spec in it's literature. What I learned was some of the speakers that claimed this did not sound good to me. Some speakers with worse published specs sounded much better.

I now listen for tonality, timbre, image, richness of musical texture (the rosin on the bow sound) and ease of use.

My most memorable example was purchasing McIntosh speakers based on the superb specs in their brochure. After getting them home they were good but not great.

I traded them in on a pair of AR-3a's which did not have the published bass performance but had better, more realistic sound.

Today we are fortunate to have such a great abundance of fine speakers. Also, until we can get speaker manufacturers to conduct speaker tesing in the 'EXACT' same way to include the same test lab, we will never be able to fully use published specs to make our purchase selections.

Mdhoover has raised a excellent observation. How steep is the roll off. Though a speaker goes to say 30, how is the graph angle look like from say 40hz down to 30hz? And for those who calim they want the "last little drops" of the music, how is the woofer that voices the 20-30, is a very steep roll from 35 to 20hz? The last hz's are too weak to make a big overall difference anyway, if there is a very steep roll.
Mdhoover are you saying is that if a speaker requires 6db of amp volume to produce the 20hz, its not near as efficient and accurate as the speaker that can hit the 20hz register at only 1db.
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Most # fudging of specs takes place in the book shelf and small floor stander market...after all, how else can those little speakers move massive amounts of air with out a little fudge on top....added weight so to speak.

Similar to Tvad, my speakers flat line through 20 Hz. However there may be room interactions that can immoderate the measurement.

No one has commented on the 27.5 Hz A0 piano key. I say one can't bring the piano into the room unless your speaker can replicate all the notes with equal handling. That doesn't even take into account the sympathetic rumbling the A0 key excites in the piano structure.
Hifi this is a great thread, which has a lot of life ahead, many more astute observations will be presented before we get to the "bottom" of things. Issues not addressed properly, or at least not fully explored as is being done here. No speaker is exempt from this critical thread, all will be revealed when its all said and done. Hype has no place on this thread. Only educated opinions, and some hunches are OK. But nothing overdone please, those days are bygone. We are entering a new phase of critical apprecaition in speaker voicing. Amps I have no comment, pick and choose as you free will.
Type of music listened to has been mentioned several times, and should be taken into consideration. I'm listening right now to a compliation cd Mississippi Blues, produced by PUTUMAYO WORLD MUSIC, bought it at Whole Foods. Pretty high quality, close to reference quality. I have the vol on my amp at 1/4 and find this to be best offering in this msuic for my system under most music. The bass is there, tight, even though its misssing out in the 20-40 hz's, I'm not sure if I really want the speaker to go lower. At 1.4 volume, the sound carries throughout the entire house and this cathedral room of 40X30 is a comfortable level. So though this MTM design is missing the loweest 20-40hz register, the dual 7's make up for a fuller 40+hz register. IOW those who might have a 3way that grabs the 20-40hz may not offer the fullness I get out of my dual 7's that really give you your money's worth at the 40hz level. Trade offs are a part of all things in audio. That happy median is something each of us has to define individually and do his own research as to what is "the ideal" for him.
I wrote Ty about this issue the other day. He wrote and said the 8 inch would give me a lower botton, say 30hz, but I would sacrifice the fullness offered in the MTM, dual 7's, going to 40, maybe the 7 goes to 35/38hz, I cant reacll the Seas specs. So in this blues cd I will get a better bottom end with the 8, but when i switch back over to my prefered music, classical, I'll be missing oyt in the full orch image of the dyual 7's. IOW I may find the 3 ways with only a single 7 may seem weak compared to the MTM dual 7 inch design. And lastly with the 3 way, the 8 by going to 30hz will offer the fq's I am missing with the 7's, in the double bass, cellos, tubas, timpini. I'd like to experience those low registers from the orch. Ty did say that one design gives up something the other offers.
This comparison can be carried over when comapring one lab to another.
So first thing is to know exactly what fits your needs, and knowing comes by discussing speaker issues on threads like this one. No one speaker fits all.
"Mdhoover are you saying is that if a speaker requires 6db of amp volume to produce the 20hz, its not near as efficient and accurate as the speaker that can hit the 20hz register at only 1db.
I hadn't thought of it in terms of required amplification volume, and cannot comment on that point. All I meant was that some speakers are flat or nearly flat at 20 hertz, whereas others might measure at minus 6 dB at that point. Clearly, if the stated measurements are even correct (see Hififile's post above), then the one that's flat down to 20 Hz has more bass.

I also don't know the precise relationship between loudspeaker efficiency and the associated frequency response curve.

In terms of accuracy, I've READ that frequency response curve flatness is not necessarily indicative of low distortion and/or high accuracy. That certainly matches my limited personal observations, and may be part of what Hififile's post is describing above*.

FOOTNOTE: In my case, the Paradigm Studio 100 V3 speakers seem to have had a very similar dynamic range to that of the Intuitive Design Summits, with the caveat that a killer DAC and better preamp are being used with the Summits. However, despite the perception of similar dynamic range--and therefore presumably similar frequency response curves--the accuracy of the Summits seems far, far superior to that of the Paradigms. (So does the imaging, high end smoothness and detail, and basically everything about them, for that matter. And I really liked the Paradigms--very excellent speakers in their own right.)
Ok so a woofer at -3db/30hz may be more ideal than a woofer that produces -1db/30hz's IOW one that voices too much bass of 30hz (-1db)is offering an out of balance image with the rest of the speakers drivers, correct?
I just looked up the db definition and finally have it some idea. What the link said that -3db is a lower volume level IN REFERENCE to the other hz's offered by the driver. ...and so, so forth.
Anyway I can now see how imprortant this db issue is on voiceing each specific range of hz's.
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Md you lost me. back to the idea of full range, options/tradeoffs.
It's useful to think in terms of how our auditory system might have developed. Sensing low frequency vibrations is useful to survival. Sources that make such low frequencies are likely to be harmful. Very high frequencies beyond those used for localization, OTH, are unlikely to be important.

Then consider the mass of the auditory apparatus, an eardrum, three articulated bones with a muscle attached, one of which rocks on a fluid filled structure that houses hair cells along a membrane. Perturbation of these hair cells causes firing of nerve cells, and the firing of those nerve cells leads through higher processing to the perception of sound. Hardly the design for an ultra HF transducer.

Now the argument can be made that beating among higher harmonics can generate combinations tones that are in the audible range, but the harmonics themselves are of much lower levels than the primaries from which they are generated, and any combination tones are at an even lower level.

Disclosure: My doctoral and post doc work was in binaural processing, but most of my pre-retirement career was as a director of a research program then a research center, so I have been out of the technical loop for decades.

I go along with the long-standing notion of 20 to 20 KHz or even 30 to 15 KHz being full range for a speaker system, but I've come to prefer that LF below 80 Hz be handled by a servo-controlled sub. Soundstaging and transparancy are more important to me than absolute frequency range, but I do enjoy that vibration one feels when a big pipe is invoked, whether at an organ recital or in my home.

Mdhoover has a valid point. Your speaker is no good if it can do 20hZ whilst sounding terrible. There are lots of speakers that measure flat from where to where, all the while sounding dull, and lifeless.

Bartokfan, you touched on the same subject in your conversations with your speaker designer. In his designs, you give up some midrange fidelity by going to a bigger driver.

It takes a big speaker to bring all the decibels in full orchestra into play, not to mention the grand sweep of a symphony in full cry.
Muralman, well by going with a 3 way, the single 8inch will bring in the lower hz's that I;m missing with the dual 7's MTMdesign. Fidelity is not the issue, as its the same Seas' drivers. Its that a single 7 acting as the midwoofer in the 3 way (8/7/tweet) will not bring out a full a voice as the MTM/dual 7's. But with the 8 I;'ll get to hear some of the lower octaves that I am missing in my MTM. The bass cellos, cellos, timpini, tubas all have some notes in the 30-40 range that I'd like to hear. It'll be an interresting trade off. I may not like it, and the Tyler 3 ways is a nice chunck of money at $3500. What I;m gaining to hear those rare but precious lower octaves in the 3 ways, may not be worth the sacrifice of losing the fullness of the dual 7's/lower hz's. IOW the 3 way may sound anemic, the lower mid hz's may be a weakened image.
Can I live with that?

"back to the idea of full range, options/tradeoffs."

Your speakers (if they are the ones at the Madisound site have a spec of -3db@45hz, all things being equal...if we compare them to speakers that measure -3db@90hz...which one has more trade off?

If another person has speakers that measure -3db@20hz and we compare them against yours...we have a nearly equal trade off...an octave.

Of course this is assuming we are playing software with fullrange info on it....you can't miss whats not there.

If you listen to a lot of large scale classical music...you are missing a lot and the results would be as clear as a cloudless day with a truly fullrange pair of speakers placed next to yours...assuming again, that you liked the overall sound of the new speakers....Not Apogees of course!

Dave I do not ahve a good grasp of this equation, 3db@45hz vs -3db@90hz. Help me out. Yes thats the ones. Did you use the Thor or Odin measurments? Are they the same?
Gee only to 45hz, the Thors. Well then please ck Tyler's System 2, with the 8 inch. What's that measurement look like? I think Ty has it down at 30hz. So yeah I could notice a difference as "clear as a cloudless day". Those critical 30-45hz's might make my classical take on a new dimension.
Dave help me out with this: "Thor, The tranmission line (dual 7 inch) produces 4db of bass lift from 20hz to 110hz, with loss less than 1db of ripple....the -3db point is 45hz with roll off of 12db per octave below 45hz. ....Usable in room bass response extends well into the low 30hz range".
They lost me. I see 20hz, 45hz, and low 30hz. Which hz is this speaker producing?