what do horns sound like

Ive probably only heard one or two many years ago and i may never get a chance to hear another anytime soon.

Do they work with pop music and electronic music? 

Do they disappear?

Do they have even tonality?

are they for nearfield or far field?

Showing 9 responses by atmasphere

Probably not nearfield, but they handle any kind of music and disappear easily and can be completely neutral.

Like any other speaker, some are more successful than others and like any other speaker require proper setup.

how do they compare to cone speakers
Depends- many horns do quite well. It depends on execution, not so much what technology.
People often compare my horn system to a very fast dynamic ESL. Images float easily in space.
They haven't achieved much success in the marketplace.
Another way of looking at this in a nutshell is that this statement really isn't true. If they were not successful, its a good bet this thread would not even exist :)
Most horns have a bit of coloration caused by the horn itself. Just start talking, then cup your hands in front of your mouth and listen to the change.
This bit is a common mythology. Horn throat design is tricky but when done correctly no coloration exists.
Ok Ralph. Let's see you get a pair of Avantgarde Trios by your wife. Make them in pink:)
My GF and I bought a house together (finally met the woman of my dreams)- one requirement was that I would be able to run my Classic Audio Loudspeakers in the living room. We looked at slightly over 70 houses, which took over a year. She's more than alright with the speakers- they have a nice finish and sound better than anything she or any of her guests (as well as myself) have ever heard. Personally I would not want the Trios so that issue is moot, but I take your point- she would be quite unhappy with them unless our room was considerably larger!

My speakers employ field coil powered midrange drivers that have beryllium diaphragms with Kapton surrounds. The first breakup is at 35KHz, so they are very smooth and owing to the field coils, very fast like ESLs. Many times I've had people comment about that latter aspect. Now my speakers are hybrids so they employ dual 15" woofers allowing the speaker to go to 20Hz no worries. I like it when speakers can do this because our amps play excellent bass as they are full power to 2Hz and have no phase shift in the bass region whatsoever. Lots of wallop! BTW this is the same reason I like the Sound Labs; they too are full range :)

Ralph, I was reading about Classic Audio Speakers the other day. They also sell their components separately to DIY guys. How do the field coils work? I am not familiar with this design and have never gotten into the specifics of horn design. Probably should study this a bit. Those Hartsfield speakers are real lookers. I remember when I was a kid listening to JBLs with that same horn lens that were mighty impressive back then.
One way to describe how field coils work is ’pretty good’ :)

Field coils preceded permanent magnets. Permanent magnets are easier/cheaper to make so when the industry sorted out how to do it field coils went away. Field coils are simply a large coil through which a DC current is sent. This causes it to have a magnetic field which is focused in the voice coil gap of the loudspeaker. What makes them special, like ESLs, is that the magnetic field does not sag like it does with any permanent magnet speaker motor when current is applied to the voice coil. So they respond faster and with greater linearity. Of course its important to have a good supply for the field coil just like it is for the static field of an ESL.

In the old days the field coil was used as a choke in the power supply of the radio or whatever with which it was used, serving double duty to smooth the power supply while also being thus energized. These days the power to run them comes from a separate power supply. Of course, audiophiles got involved with that, so if you read about the power supplies for field coils sooner or later you’ll read about Tungar bulbs, which are low voltage high current gas-tube rectifiers, which audiophiles claim sound better :) Since some of the modern field coils are quite large, that this is so is highly dubious since regulating the supply is pretty important. The regulator would of course negate any benefit that a Tungar bulb might bring.

Put another way, field coils are the only dynamic speaker tech that keeps up with the speed of ESLs. Combine that with a horn and the driver really doesn’t have to move all that far, improving linearity. In this way you can make a dynamic driver that has similar low distortion as you see in ESLs.
A horn is not designed for this, its designed to go loud.
This statement is false. Horns are meant to take best advantage of amplifier power and having controlled radiation is how they achieve that. The directivity and efficiency of a horn does not affect its ability to image well- the latter requires good bandwidth and phase coherency.
Direct drivers already go loud enough to cause hearing damage so there is no need to use a horn to go even louder.
Thus this statement is based on a false premise and so is also false. The fact of the matter is if you play the horn at the same volume, the amp driving the loudspeaker will likely be making less distortion as it won't be making as much power. This results in a more relaxed presentation since the ear converts all forms of distortion into a tonality; higher ordered harmonic distortion and IMD manifest as brightness and harshness.
I dont see any evidence that horns provide superior sound quality. Quite often we hear that horns are actually pretty colored. We dont hear that kind of criticism with direct drivers so there is no free lunch.
This statement is a Red Herring; if one is not actively looking for evidence, its a pretty good bet they aren't going to find it.

Although there has been some good information presented on this thread, it seems to me that the initial premise for its existence is merely based on trolling.

Diffraction caused by angles or discontinuities anywhere within at the horn (including within the compression driver and at the junction) are a rather insidious source of coloration. What happens is, the diffraction is a spectrally-distorted signal which arrives at the ears a little bit LATER THAN the undiffracted sound travelling straight through the horn. If it arrived at the SAME TIME as the undiffracted sound it would be mostly if not entirely masked, but because it arrives LATER it is not masked by the undiffracted sound. Diffraction sounds like edginess, and the louder the SPL, the more this edginess sticks out like a sore thumb, because the ear actually has a non-linear response to this (linear) distortion.
@audiokinesis , Doesn't this also point to proper throat design? I know that the TAD maple machined horn had a problem in this regard (and was designed by a JBL engineer as his swan song) and if I have this correctly was a common problem prior to the CAD era. This is one of the things that was fixed by the horns used by Classic Audio Loudspeakers.

Imo it is a mistake to assume that there is a good match between exit angle and entry angle just because the same manufacturer makes both. It seems like the compression driver department and the horn department often don’t see the need to collaborate.
@audiokinesis Thanks- IMO this might explain why there are so many different reactions to horns. When I bought my speakers, I listened to both the TAD machined horn (at the time- this was 1998) and the JBL tractrix horn, both with the same compression driver. I preferred the JBL at the time. Later (about 10 years later) John told me that he had found and corrected a flaw in the throat design of the TAD, which is why he makes his own machined wood horns now instead of buying them from TAD. And in listening it did seem that he had made a very significant step forward in the sound of the speaker- it was noticeably **smoother**, easier to listen to at high volumes, even better than the JBL tractrix horn. In my old listening room I was able to easily play my speakers at 105dB and they sounded completely relaxed; if not for the sound pressure meter you would have no way of knowing they were that loud (which to me is an important hallmark of a good stereo).

Thanks again for your comments!