Haha...that's a tough thing to answer actually. I haven't heard the new Focus speakers, but Dynaudio doesn't use their best tweeter here, which is odd given the top model is pretty expensive. I heard the Contour 20 and the Persona 3F, which are more comparable I think. The new Contour series utilizes Dynaudio's best tweeter (Esotar 2)/ Usually Dynaudio tweeters have a smooth, silky sound, they are very good. The 3F tweeter and midrange units are on a different level though and sound extremely high resolution. It's like they cut through the air.
I think the XD 60 may have better bass response, the 3F is pretty small comparatively. The XD60 will also allow you to correct for any room related issues with the DSP. I would audition the Contour 30, XD60 and the 3F if I were you. You would save money with the active speakers obviously, but they are also best for digital sources IMO, as any analog source would also be converted to digital, so there'd be no point.
Ah, but my question revolves around whether a digital crossover can provide a superior response to speakers with hard wired crossovers yet possessing superlative driver materials. Surely the physical components in a typical crossover circuit will add their own sound to the output of the speaker. Is this enough to overwhelm the output of the drivers, however transparent they might be?
I've heard none of these speakers, but I cannot see how the Contour 20 compares to the Persona 3F. Perhaps to the Persona B?
I chose the Focus 60 XD speakers and the Persona 3F speaker as both are similarly sized, both have twin 7" bass drivers and both have mid-range and tweeter drivers. The Focus 60 XD is roughly US$4000/pair more expensive than the Persona 3F, but that is due to the included amplification and crossover network. I submit that in any given living room, the Focus 60 XD will have the same effective price as the Persona 3F, if not actually less.
And again, the question is, in the short term, should OEMs sink more money into diaphragm materials or improved crossovers?
Improved crossovers through active designs are a big improvement especially in three ways. Diaphragm material is overrated and cannot make up for poor driver overall design, integration and motor quality
It seems that year after year we hear of new speaker diaphragm materials with near magical properties.
We never hear of new crossover topologies with near magical properties.
Now I’m all for superlative diaphragm and motor technologies, but should not some thought also be given to crossovers?
If new digital signal processing capabilities allows us to generate in cyberspace superior crossovers and to improve upon the old school and expensive meat space components of yore, should we not embrace this development?
My question is, how close are we to achieving this breakthrough, or have we already achieved it?
PS: nitewulf and shadorne, thanks for your replies!
The Paradigm mid-tweeter driver does use a more capable material, but implementation matters as much, if not more, than simply choice of the material.
In high frequency driver use, due to its very high self damping (not internal damping), ultrasonic breakup is pushed up fairly high for a 25mm dome. Down at the bottom of the band, it might reduce distortion if a designer chose to use first or second order crossovers and a low point, but that isn't the case here. Paradigm uses third order all around and the tweeter is crossed at 2.4khz.
The mid driver on the other hand is on the larger side, which does begin to beam at just under 2khz. I'm assuming the lens placed on the driver assists on the integration, but well have to see measurements to know. In any respects, the material would push its resonance up a bit further, which aids in keeping its distortion in check since Be doesn't have very good internal damping properties. The larger radiation area would also allow greater dynamics in the range with less motion and thus distortion.
While you may read that it reflects poorly on the Dynaudio, it doesn't. The materials chosen by them have much better internal damping, which simply means some of the breakup energy is absorbed by the cone material.
Think of it like suspension in a car. In Paradigm's case, its a sports car with a very stiff suspension. It requires a smooth road to operate at its best (avoiding distortion). The Dynaudio has a more compliant suspension and can deal with a little imperfection without disturbing the ride too much. Consider the road condition as simply distortion and not musical signal. Paradigm, had to ensure its drivers worked specifically in their operting range, which is fairly broad due to material choices. Dynaudio could accept a small bit without it all falling apart.
But as long as the designers keep the drivers within their optimal range, a competent design can be made with either. Each material just comes with its own properties you need to contend with.
+1 Exactly my experience. Exotic diaphragms - especially rigid light weight metallic or ceramic ones are NOT the holy grail. I still prefer the internally damped sound of pulp paper and soft fabric woven material usually doped with a damping chemical. Constrained layer damping is the latest approach in these designs. I find they hav a noise floor and clarity far superior to anything else. The limited bandwidth and heavy material can be compensated for without a super powerful motor and larger voice coil. Only drawback are they are expensive to make. A light weight cone will RING making a hashy sound and hiding detail - but they are cheap to make as the motor can be small - being cheap they are very popular outsourced parts by speaker builders.
Great analogy mmeysarosh!
As a Paradigm dealer, exotic Beryllium cones, as well as an ATC dealer, paper woofer, and soft dome tweeter, i say it is as Mmeysarosh says it is in the details.
To say a speaker is better just because it has a specific cone material is not looking at the entire design.
Beryllium is the holly grail out of most metals as it is extremely light and stiff and therefore makes the perfect piston, the metal is self damped and doesn't ring like aluminium or titanium, and the drivers are state of the art in terms of basket design, magnet and voice coil structure, they are very expensive drivers.
The clarity of the Paradigms is spectacular and along with the Acuton Diamond drivers these are the most resolute speakers around, however, with all of that resolution you have to work hard to create a musically satisfying sound by using electronics and sources which can work to create a musical sound to create a balance that most listeners will enjoy.
The ATC sound stunningly natural, do they have the same clarity no they do not, but boy do they sound good in a way that draws you in, and they still have great resolution and a very holographic sound stage.
mmeysarosh: Thank you for your careful explanation. It still does not quite address my concerns. My thoughts are that a signal from whatever source component must be brought through an imperfect path to energize diaphragms vibrating in our listening rooms for us to enjoy reproduced music.
We can think of this imperfect path as having various choke points in it. Cables, both interconnect and speaker, need to be decent. Pre-amplification and amplification add their own issues. Then we get to the speaker where the signal must pass through physical electrical components before finally being handed off to the drivers, which themselves have issues regarding motor design and diaphragm material. Let’s forget about issues such as speaker enclosures and room acoustics.
I fully understand and applaud the efforts to improve diaphragm materials. This will go a long way to reducing ill effects from that particular choke point. However, I don’t understand the same lack of interest for technologies that completely eliminate choke points.
By this I mean digital signal processing (DSP) breakthroughs that allow OEMs to simply throw away the electrical components that make up a traditional crossover. For years we’ve been told how critical these components can be, and how we need to spend extra $ to get better ones. Now they can be set aside altogether. I submit that this is a development of some interest and one we should pay attention to going forward.
Proper implementation of DSP not only allows OEMs to ditch (and thereby save money) hardwired circuitry, from my poor understanding it also allows correction of things such as time alignment and phase issues between individual drivers in a multi-way loudspeaker. It also allows consumers to save money on cabling and grandiose external amplification, while delivering a pristine signal to the speaker drivers. What’s not to like?
audiotroy: So your shop sells the Persona and ATC series? What are your high end brands? ;-) Seriously, I’d love to be able to drop in and play some music there!
I do have some questions about the Persona line.
It appears that the tweeters and midranges are uniform across the floor standing speakers in the Persona line. It appears that the Persona B uses the same tweeter, but uses a woofer that is an amalgam of the diaphragm in the tower series midrange and the surround and motor structure in the 7" woofers in the the tower series
I get that the Persona Bs are $3,500 each. I note that the Persona 3Fs have enclosures over twice the size of the Bs and throw in two 7" woofers while being $5,000 each, an increase of $1,500 each. When we get to the Persona 5Fs, the enclosures are marginally larger than the 3Fs, add one 7" woofer, and yet the price rises by $3,500 each? Ouch!
However much I strain my imagination, I cannot see how a pair of 5Fs are a better value than a pair of 3Fs and a Persona SUB. The SUB has SIX additional 8" woofers, plus a substantial cabinet, plus built in amplification and DSP to fine tune it to your room. Indeed, it seems to me that a 3F and SUB combo could punch up there with a pair of 7Fs while being far less visually intrusive. If you want to bring the 9H into the discussion, I could add an additional SUB to my system and still have US$12,000 in my bank account.
My initial post was worded poorly. I meant I only heard the C20, but the comparable speaker in the new Contour line would be the C30. To your point, as far as hardware goes, there really wouldn't be a cost reduction by getting rid-off hardwired circuits, as it'll be taken over by internal amplification and DSP circuits, as you can see from the added cost of the XD series speakers. The original Focus was Dynaudio's entry level line, and priced well below other lines
As to if more manufacturers should focus on it, I believe European brands have been doing this for a while now (Audio Physic and some non "high end" brands), it's just that, they are not very well known in America. American high end brands are perhaps a bit behind in this area. For boutique manufacturers, they may lack the electronics and DSP know how to make good sounding digital crossovers, as you need significant software engineering as well as acoustic design knowledge. So I believe it's difficult for small operations to hire the subject matter experts, cause they'd ask for big money. Hence you see a big company like Paradigm doing this. You get the best of both worlds with the 9H I think, active DSP controlled subwoofer section and passive mid/tweeter sections.
For the original question of which is more important? I think it all depends on the implementation. Like I mentioned in one of my other threads, I heard the Endeavor Audio E3 speakers recently, and while utilizing pretty much off the shelf drivers, and a very basic cabinet design...the quality of sound these guys came up with is just incredible. It's such a sweet, great sounding speaker!
So it's all in the overall design. In the future if bigger electronics companies start licensing out DSP circuits, you may see more boutique high end brands utilizing these circuits in theit designs.