Why not horns?

I've owned a lot of speakers over the years but I have never experienced anything like the midrange reproduction from my horns. With a frequency response of 300 Hz. up to 14 Khz. from a single distortionless driver, it seems like a no-brainer that everyone would want this performance. Why don't you use horns?
it seems like a no-brainer that everyone would want this performance
One man's "no-brainer"(BTW,I hate that term!!)is another man's "no way in hell".Everyone doesn't precieve sound the same as you do.I find most horns too "in the face" for my liking.I'm glad you've found speakers you really like,it is sometimes a long and frustrating process.
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if a room is lively already, horns might not be a good idea ( not saying it cant be done ), but maybe a speaker that is a little bit on the warm side would be a better choice.
The very best horn designs run at about 3% THD when played loud and this will distortion is audible and in treble.

Conventional non-horn designs can play loud at 0.3% THD and often much lower in the treble - pretty much inaudible.

You are talking at least a factor of 10 more distortion in a compression horn design...

The principle advantage of horns is that they are more efficient and play louder with less power. This efficieny comes at a price which is compression in the horn throat and a higher level of distortion at louder levels.

At modest levels horns can be very competitive in terms of sound quality/distortion.
Honk, honk!

Seriously though, some are pretty good if the system is voiced and implemented well. That said, most aren't plug and play as your room interaction is can be greater.

I have yet seen or heard any speaker which can play loud with such low 0.3% THD. You might be able to get a measurement In the lab playing a single sine wave signal at a particular frequency at a particular level, but I don't know of any speaker which can achieve such low THD over a wider frequency range with dynamic signal. If you know of any, curious mind would love to know.
I have yet seen or heard any speaker which can play loud with such low 0.3% THD.

ATC claim this on their highest end designs such as the SCM300 while playing at 121 dB SPL (definitely loud). I am skeptical that they can actually achieve this down to 20 Hz but I imagine it is not far off the truth especially with a 6 db bass boost from a typical soffit mount - certainly from 40 to 20 Khz it can probably be done. Of course, at normal volume levels the distortion is probably even slightly lower but 0.3% THD is definitely approaching the limits of speaker technology even at moderate volume levels.

See this review
I'm sure there are a number of people who have done extensive listening on very good horn systems who prefer something else, but my guess is that most people who "loathe" horns have never heard them properly implemented. Kind of like saying hamburgers suck when the only place you've had one is McDonalds.

Herman, you might be guessing right, but how many hundreds of opportunities does it take for horn enthusiasts to properly implement them?
funny...I have a few speakers ALL Horn Design, but with ALL,

the speakers, and very sensitive, even without ANY Music,

with your ear near the speakers, DEAD QUIET!

Paul Klipsch must have known a thing or two; How many

speakers do YOU know, that have been around over 60 YEARS!

Properly set-up, the Horn speaker, is capable of uncanny


Time will tell, how long these new speakers last.

They won't be making them in 60 years I know that.

We ALL hear different, but we ALL like "accurate sound"

The Horn Design, commands that certain criteria is met,

for Best results, failure to address each individual

piece in the puzzle, and you will "run for the hills!"

Well worth the effort, to gain Superior sound IMHO.

Nothing does voices, horns, and so much more, like horns,


The sound is "Natural", not boomy, or shrill sounding.

Really funny, when folks see the speakers I have, they laugh, and say "you can't be serious?"

Music starts, "jaws drop to the floor!" SPEECHLESS!

They start walking around the room, as if in disbelief,

wondering how the sound is so "CLEAN!"

They go home, listen to the same CD's, and come back over,

and listen again, this time, visible upset, they usually

say something like, "never heard horns sound so real!"

A fellow listener, recently was "sick" when he compared

his 2 speakers(very nice$$$$$), to my set-up. "No comparison!"

Although using multiple speakers,when the Music starts they "disappear"!

Where his 2 speakers, left NO doubt, EXACTLY where the

Music was coming from.

Plus, they could NOT provide the Complete "Bass Lock"

on the entire room.

Imaging, Sound-stage, Dynamics, "Surround" Sound 2 channel,

front and back.

Unless You have a large Genesis or Infinity I.R.S., VR-11,Burmester, or

one of those seven foot tall speakers, no small 2 speakers,

will EVER fill a room evenly, as effortlessly, and

seem-less, with pure accurate Music reproduction.IMHO.

Altec, and JBL also have had great success, with Horn

designs, like the VOT, series.

They exist, because they make MUSIC! Something many of

the much more expensive speakers FAIL to do.

Recording Studios know.

Oh, if I hooked up my Klipsch to a 100wpc. Kenwood receiver,

THAT would be what Horn haters, refer to. "Shrill-City!"

They are like a microphone, every single sound is reproduced.

But, in my set-up, I hear details in songs, I NEVER heard!

I can hear Miles giving Rudy Van Gelder instructions

on several of His CD's, CLEARLY!

You HEAR every single sound that is on the CD, cash registers, inhale of horn players, decay in bass lines.

Barely audible on most speakers, VERY clearly audible,

on mine.

The inflection when a bass player strums a note, and the
sound of his finger releasing the strings. Amazing!

No not for everyone, but then, WHAT IS?

I Love Music!
Good question, but you could extend that to just about anything else in this hobby. I went through probably 10 pair of some pretty high end speakers before I settled on what I have. Other than changing to bass horns and going from standard to Duo Omegas I've had the same basic speakers for probably the past 6 years and have no desire to change. They make me smile, they make me tap my toe.

Bjpd57a1, that is one heck of a love poem there. Nicely done. Your passion comes through loud and clear, as if sung through a horn, maybe.
I do use Horns (Klipsch).....I like them a lot. I think the midrange of my Apogee speakers beats the Klipsch by a fair amount though.

Of course my Klipsch aren't the best horns, but my Apogees aren't the best Apogee either?

No Brainer is the exact term for anyone who cannot hear the obvious colorations of horns! LOL. Hay, we all have different tastes and preferences; what a dull world it would be if we didn't.
Here is the driver I am using:

Check out Acoustic Horn Company AH300 to see the horn I'm talking about. While it is true that a term like distortionless is hyperbolic, it is also true that you will be unable to detect any semblance of distortion in my room at practical listening levels. Conical horns are claimed to avoid congestion and therefore distortion in the horn throat.

As for room interaction, it is actually lower than with more conventional drivers because the horns are only 40 degree dispersion. That's 20 degrees either side of axis, which is to say pretty narrow. That means the sound reaches you well before it reaches any reflective boundaries.
The disqualifier for some people will be listening distance. It is best to have at least 12 feet between you and your horns.
Distortion figures at 120 db have no place in any discussion about my sound system as it will never play anywhere near that loud.
These are the same horns used by Gogent, Oswald's Mill and Chris Brady of Teres Turntable. There is no honk. The presentation is like that of a very dynamic QUAD.
" I have yet seen or heard any speaker which can play loud with such low 0.3% THD. "

"ATC claim this on their highest end designs such as the SCM300 while playing at 121 dB SPL (definitely loud). I am skeptical that they can actually achieve this down to 20 Hz but I imagine it is not far off the truth especially with a 6 db bass boost from a typical soffit mount - certainly from 40 to 20 Khz it can probably be done. Of course, at normal volume levels the distortion is probably even slightly lower but 0.3% THD is definitely approaching the limits of speaker technology even at moderate volume levels."

I find this interesting as the baffle in the "soffit mount" is what gives you the 6db of gain. This is the same property as a horn with all of its issues. Soffit mounting done properly is useful. Improperly done, and it can be just horrid no matter how great a speaker you put in there. Besides working out proper placement, the fabrication of the soffit itself is very important as it becomes a transducer along with the speaker.
Macro, I understand what you are asking but you could open up a can of worms with some of the teckies on the site. When You listen to music essentially you are listening to distortion.
I have a friend that simply talks about specs and #'s. Since the 70's numbers have been meaningless to me. Remember the high powered receivers with .00000001% THD? If you put that receiver next to a Dynaco ST 70 from the 60's you may have a totally different opinion of those numbers. I believed in all that until I heard my first tube amp. Even at 2% THD I HEARD ONE THING, MUSIC!
NO numbers could add up to that no matter how low they were.
The sound regardless of how it is reproduced is key. Whether it be horns, electrostatic, dynamic or ribbon speakers.
I am partial to ribbon technology. I do however like horns. Some setups are a tremendous value and in some regards better others. Once synergy is reached there are many types of reproducers that can please you. The trick is how long will those horns keep you interested or impressed. What are you going to do when you hear another system that is superior to yours using your own ears?

What pleases your ears will surely appeal to others but three will always be skeptics regardless. Just Ignore them. It's all what you think. I have Klipsch on my Hot Rod Computer. Before that I had Monsoons. I love the Monsoons but there is something about the Klipsch where the sound is more dynamic and authoritative. Even though the Monsoons were dynamic too the Klipsch were even more so.
Unfortunately, my main listening room will only accomodate speakers with a limited bass response to around 40Hz. I still have 2 Dali Suite 1.2 Subs that augment the bottom end. They are both Acoustic Suspension and there isn't much bloat. So far it has been pleasing to the ears of all that have listened to it.
I have been trying to find a pair of LaScallas for my 14 x 13 foot room for the past year locally so I can pick them up. Personally everyone says they will be too big for my room. What if I discover that midrange as you have. I'm only going to say what have I been waiting on all these years. All this to say, horns have some very natural properties in it's presentation the midband is what they do very naturally. Some will be in for face and some will hoot at you. You room is very important. Right now, Ribbons are still my favorite designs but until I get some horns I won't know what they can really do. I'm still hoping I can find a pair locally. I use to sell them in the 80's and I grew a liking to them but they were out of my budget at that time and I didn't have the space for them. What you hear is all that matters and don't let anyone tell you that they don't sound good. Forget about the distortion numbers, etc. If you are listening to tubes you are most like above 1% distortion anyway. Listen to the virtures of the music and how it communicates the music to you. The Hype of all this is that we get caught up in numbers and Audiophile terms and we forget about what this hobby is all about. The music.
Why isn't everybody using recent model Quad electrostatics? Single driver, no crossover, low distortion, etc...
i always think of horns as like putting the sound under a magnifying glass. A lot of things do not look good under a magnifying glass. Some things can be beautiful but it it may take a while to find the right sound under high scrutiny.

In other words, it may take a good bit more work and precision to get horn loaded speakers to sound "right" compared to less efficient designs that are more forgiving.
I find this interesting as the baffle in the "soffit mount" is what gives you the 6db of gain.

I should add "in the bass region" which is where it is nearly impossible to keep distortion low at high SPL's.

You get even more bass SPL gain by placing a speaker tightly in a corner but this exacerbates room modal issues severely and is detrimental to mid range and treble as you get early side wall reflections.

This is the same property as a horn with all of its issues.

Well sort of...a horn takes this to extreme by coupling the transducer to a very narrow/small chamber(s) and this can cause non-linear distortion due to heavy compression of the air within this small space (when played at higher levels). Technically short wide open horn shapes (like you see on many tweeters) are called "waveguides" and they do not cause distortion although they can alter dispersion in a desirable manner.

FWIW: horns have one huge advantage over conventional designs in addition to their efficiency => lack of compression. Generally a horn will preserve the dynamics of the music at high levels much better than a conventional transducer. In conventional designs the voice coil gets very hot (thermal compression) and large excursions mean non-linearities (distortion). Horns are an excellent approach to many high end applications as they do have distinct advantages.
Personally I have tried most types of speaker, boxes, electrostatics, ribbons and so on.

I now have horns and wonder how I ever listened to some of the other speakers for so long?

Horns done well have no "honky" sound. They can be as transparent as any quad or ML etc, but with the ability to do true dynamics and volume with bass weight and depth.

I suspect many here have not had the chance to hear a good horn system by some of the comments made.
I made an assumption when I started this thread that only a small percentage of audiophiles were aware of how well horns can reproduce music. So far these responses support that assumption.

While there are many of you who might not enjoy the sound and there are a number of others who are in circumstances that make the horn choice inappropriate, many others could improve their sound system to a great degree by switching to quality front loaded horns.

Emerald Physics and Earl Geddes are two sources who offer rather affordable and well regarded options. BD Design and Acoustic Horn Company are a couple of others.

I urge you all to find out what you are missing. High efficiency is a side benefit in that it increases your amplifier options infinitely. Check it out.
I'm a big fan of ESLs and ribbons, but the horns I have in my own system are faster and more revealing, and less colored. I have heard plenty of horns that honk and do weird things- the throat and mouth design is everything in a horn, any errors and the distortion skyrockets. But if it is correct there is nothing out there that can touch them. I don't have bass horns, my system is a bass reflex/horn hybrid, about 98 db 1 watt/1 meter. The diaphragms in the horns are beryllium domes with a kapton surround with no breakups in the audio pass band, and the magnet structures are custom-built field coils.

IMO/IME field coil is the only technology out there that can be as fast and as revealing as ESLs, although I am very impressed by the High Emotion Audio tweeter, which is an interesting (and patented) cross between a horn and a ribbon, very efficient and very fast (and nearly omni-directional) without coloration. It might be the only exception to the superiority of ESLs and field coils.

I don't blame anyone for not liking horns, but to those who doubt based on their listening experiences, I have this to say: you really need to hear the right one, set up properly. Many horn drivers are highly reactive and don't work right if the amplifier used has a low output impedance due to large amounts of feedback! Just because a horn is expensive, don't trust that it is also designed right too! There are quite a few bloopers out there IMO.
Ralph do you think a single driver speaker can do as good as
a full range ESL (like soundlab) or a dynamic speaker;it seems to be that it would not be able to because it is being asked to do to much especially during complex musicial passages.
I admit I have never heard a single driver system though.
Rleff - My speakers are not single driver but rather a hybrid something like what Ralph describes. I have a 15 inch woofer in a 5 cu. ft. ported cabinet under each horn. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear. I don't know of any full range driver either. Typically a horn can only cover about two and a half octaves. That's why full horn systems are usually 4-way set-ups.
My horns are driven by permanent magnet compression drivers because I can't afford field coil drivers and because I was told by Bill Woods that the B&C drivers I use perform very near to the level of Cogent Field Coils. Certainly they are as close as I am ever likely to get. the Cogent Field Coil sound. My drivers sell for about $480 each. The Cogents are about $15,000/pair.
Macrojack I was surprised to see the beating horns are getting on this thread;I have no experience with them but I do admit I have an interest when the time comes;it sounds like you have a excellant setup.
many people are just not skillfull enought to set-up horn speakers;and they are merciless to inferior electronics....

Done well ,matched with good electronics,they are just magical....And the amount of horn speakers in Japan are just stagerring....perharps a tribute to the skills of the Japanese.maybe those horn-bashers should take a trip there.It we be good education on what a horn speakers really are

and you are right though, a properly set up Horn based system are infectiously musical.,second bar none.
If you don't have the right room. That translates to one with volume. As all know, horns are very directional. So, unless you can sit in the exact 'sweet spot', you lose the total effect. My first experience with horns was with a single K-Horn, yes mono days. Blew me away. Of course it was a Marantz/McIntosh/Vinyl chain. Took me twenty years but I build a room for a pair and till this day I have not found anything better.
Hi Tom, I agree with you whole heartilly. A good horn system can recreate the original live performance better then most other designs. If set up properly a good horn system will never be "in your face". What you will get is the dynamics and depth and realism you find when listening live. I have had many different speaker systems over the years and my present horn system is closer to the real thing then anything else I have ever listened to in my home.
I have owned Klipsch La Scallas 20 years AGO. I am not implying they are outdated but....... Jadis and a few others with tube equipment can sound heavenly. Let your ears be the judge
Macrojack, part of the reason you're getting some negativity about this post is because there's an inherent arrogance in your question. You may not have intended that to be the case, but it's there. In form your question is no different than, "I've found salvation in Jesus, why haven't you?" There are two obvious responses to this type of question. "I'm happy for you", or "go shove it!" True believers are boring.

Also clouding the discussion is the fact that you haven't listed your system. What exactly are we talking about? It's coming out in dribs and drabs. It's confusing the issue.

Several people have commented that the horn detractors haven't heard properly set up horns. That's very presumptive upon their part. Again it goes back to that whiff of arrogance. Additionally, in my experiences it raises suspicions when a product is so critical to "proper setup". It could be that the sound is simply an acquired taste.

I recently heard a marvelous demonstration of a horn system. It was all the positives described in this posting. If at some point in the future I feel the need to put two refrigerator sized objects in my listening room, horns would definitely be on my list.
If you want violins to sound like trumpets, get horns.
On the other hand for, Dixieland Jazz, a horn speaker is ideal.
Unsound... That's a neat instrument. Ideal for a steet performer. But it isn't a violin.
Eldartford, I think it might be more cocrrectly described as a freaking abomination.:-)
I've had reasonably extensive experience with horns - I currrently own a pair of Zingali 3s and I auditioned 2 other brands (SAP and Avantegarde) at length before my purchase. Some years back, I decided to buy a low powered SET amp (I wanted to check out the enthusiasm for these designs) and was looking for an appropriate speaker match. Ultimately, I settled on horns for that reason.

Of the 3 brands, only the SAP presented coloration issues for me, but I gather that I'm less sensitive to mild colorations than some others who participate here. The Avantegardes were appealling but not so much the price tag, so I ended up with the Zings.

After a few years, the issue that caused me to look elsewhere was what I'll call "the dark side" of extended range horns. That is, if the bright side of horns is - as Shadorne noted - lack of compression. All the designs I mentioned are strikingly dynamic at audition, but....

The (sub)woofers are not horn loaded. Horn loading a true low frequency driver is generally impractical, so this "hybrid" approach is common to most extended range horn designs. As the volume goes up, the horn loaded drivers remain unconstrained, while the (sub)woofers compress in fashion that - in my system - was audible and, eventually, offputting. After this discovery, I re-auditioned the Avantgardes at a local dealer and specifically varied the SPL more than I would usually do at such an audition. In the end, I noted a similar, if admittedly subtler, effect with the Avantgardes.

I can't generalize to all such designs, but -in my case(s)- I found the mix of horn loaded upper frequencies and non-horn loaded bass more distracting than, say, a well executed panel with dynamic woofer hybrid (as a reference point). The bottom line is that I now use the Zingalis for background listening - where they sound great, if overkill - because I find them bright at higher SPLs.

I do not intend this to be an overarching criticism of the design approach, merely a response to the OP. For me, that's "why not horns" in my main system.

My system is unsettled as I am playing around with parts and pieces right now. I have a slight noise, a faint rushing sound behind everything. I've been able to eliminate it by taking the digital speaker management system out of the loop but that is no solution. Because the speakers are so good, I am working to eliminate the sound. I have been using a DBX Drive Rack PA up until now but have recently learned that better units are available. This led me to purchase a British made XTA DP 224 to replace the DBX. Apparently getting home and pro audio to play nice together can be very difficult due to impedance and level matching issues. Toward this end, I have hired a professional sound engineer to do the dirty work for me as I have discovered the XTA to be over my head.
So here's the kit: I have a Technics SL 150 MK II turntable with a Rega RB 300 arm. Both are new and have not been put into use as yet. I have a Parasound JC-2 preamp going into the digital crossover and then to my amplifiers. Todaythere is a Class D Audio 60 watt stereo amp kit driving the horns and a Parasound A-23 amplifier driving the woofers. Other amplifiers that may be used in the final setup are waiting in the wings. I have a second Parasound A-23, a Perreaux PMF 1850, A pair of Audio Mirror 20 watt SET monoblocks, and a soon to be delivered Rawson clone Aleph J.
The speakers are Acoustic Horn Company AH300 horns driven by B&C DCX 50 compression drivers. These are mounted atop JBL L-200 cabinets with RCF L15P530 woofers installed.
Here's a link from the Acoustic Horn website showing a photo of my speakers back when I bought them about 18 months ago. Scroll down to "Tom from Denver" and that's my system then. The speakers still look the same. If you click on a photo, it will enlarge.


I suspect I will wind up using all Parasound because the stuff is balanced, matched and has gain controls on all three pieces. I've read that there can be great advantages in using identical amplifiers in a biamp situation. Input on that theory would be appreciated.
Now about the title of my thread. There was no agenda driving the choice of words. I guess I was just responding to the seemingly prevalent bias against horns which has surfaced in some of our replies. I was a Zu owner previously and I could go back to those in a minute. Sean Casey cut his teeth on horn speakers and I think there is a horn characteristic in the delivery of Zu speakers. That shows up in their exceptional dynamics and broadcast nature.
Perhaps I should have titled the thread something like, "I like my horns. Do you like yours?". The true believer epithet is over the top, Glenn Beck caliber heckling which I would love never to encounter for the rest of my days but Atwater lifted the lid long ago and we, as a result, have become a nation of snipes. I hope this entry answers enough questions and permits us to get back to the topic of "WHY NOT HORNS?".
I am amused. Those that think every sound coming from horns sounds like air blowing through a horn have evidently never heard good ones.
If you want violins to sound like trumpets, get horns"

That statement shows a complete ignorance of what a good horn system sounds like.

The violins through mine are indeed violins. I attend the philharmonic on a regular basis and even though there is no way to completely reproduce that experience in your home, my system does a pretty good job of reproducing a symphony orchestra. I assure you it does not sound like a bunch of trumpets.

Ralph, do you wind your own field coils? I'm not sure he has them on his website yet as they may still be in development but I've listened to some that Jeffrey Jackson and Dave Slagle are developing and they do indeed sound very nice.


Marty - I can see in theory that the problem you mention has potential to discourage. I don't personally play my system loud enough for the lagging woofer issue to compromise results. But I'm coming into geezerhood so I' may not serve as a useful bellwether in that regard. By the same token, my drivers are coaxial, yet I've never seen fit to hook up the tweeters. They just aren't needed as I don't hear anything up there.
Perhaps there is reason to question my being a useful example in any regard as I no longer hold that the best sound reproduction I can achieve should be my only goal at the expense of all else. I've reached a place in my life where I choose to balance convenience, aesthetics, cost and versatility against audiophile absolutes. Are others making those kind of choices?
" If at some point in the future I feel the need to put two refrigerator sized objects in my listening room, horns would definitely be on my list."

The size of most good full range horn designs is perhaps the biggest reason they are not more popular as I understand it. Most people do not have room for or even want these gigantic beasts in their rooms.

I asked a large Manhattan dealer rep why they carry no horn speakers among the myriad high end equipment on display in their shop and this was the reason related. Of course in big cities like NY, room is generally tighter for most.
My bass cabinets are 24 inches wide and 33 inches tall. The horn mouths are 18 inches outside diameter. Total height is 52 inches. You could hide my whole speaker behind a Magnapan 3.6.
Go measure your speakers. Certainly mine are not compact but neither are they outlandishly huge. Some people have space for them and some don't. I'm aware that horns do not have universal appeal. If they are a realistic possibility, I would urge you to investigate. If your wife won't allow it or you can't sit back far enough or your religion clearly states "Thou shall not horn", then you shouldn't tamper with your staus quo. If you have a curiosity, as I inexplicably did, then scratch yer damn itch. Take a flyer and see if you like the horn presentation the way a lot of others say they do.
Actually I have a decent size house yet parted with my Maggies due to lack of room to set them up correctly without being intrusive, so Maggies are not really a good example of a room friendly speaker design.

The OHMs with the Walsh drivers solved the problem. Big speaker sound in a fairly small footprint that is reasonably room friendly.

I would like to try horns someday, but practically I doubt I would ever get any more serious than dabbling with some smaller designs with a SET amp or something along those lines.
Proud owner of Klipschorns since 1988 and wouldn't consider any other speaker at this time. No "honky" sounds as described by some others here. My wife keeps bugging me to rip out the carpeting and put in wood floors- now this could be a problem for the Khorns.
I think the old Klipsch are a great starting point...easy to upgrade, easy to find cheap, easy to sell, and not bad sound at all.

I started with Kg4's ($165)....bought upgraded Forte next (($550), and now I'm thinking bigger Klipsch...or maybe Altec 19's.

My Klipsch don't honk, very nice for the price.