Big speakers, are they really the best way to get great sound?


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to some very large speakers that are considered to be at, or close to, the pinnacle in speaker design and ability. Needless to say, the speakers retail in the mid to high $300k range. These speakers, and I will not be naming them, were sourced by about $800k of upstream gear. Room size was about thirty by twenty, maybe a little larger.
To say the the overall sound was BIG would be accurate, but also I noticed something else, that I typically hear with big speaker systems. Generally, the speakers were right on edge of overloading the room, depending on music, the dreaded bass boom could be heard. But, the whole presentation was greater in impact than most any smaller speaker system, yet it was almost unlistenable for the long term.

The question I asked myself, is do we really want this type of presentation in our home audio systems? The speakers threw a pretty large soundstage, but also made things sound somewhat larger than life. I also thought that this type of speaker is akin to the large box dynamic speakers of yesteryear. For example, a set of large horns from Altec Lansing or similar was reminiscent of this sound. Makes me believe that if one has a big room, a similar sound can be obtained from most any large speaker system and at a fraction of the price.

I listen in a very small room, and by necessity in the near field, yet I think the overall intimacy of this type of listening experience is better for me, your thoughts?

128x128daveyf

@mijostyn wrote:

There seems to be a genital competition here. It has been my experience that most persons, lacking exposure, really have no idea. They like Hollandaise sauce but have never had real homemade Hollandaise. The trick is to leave the butter out overnight. The only horns most people have ever heard were something like Altec Voice of the Theaters which, to be polite, were the aural equivalent of chewing on cardboard.

I believe in this case we have to acknowledge that quite a few horn-loaded speakers, even at more moderate price levels, avoid sounding "dirty and rough" per se (not to say they sound their best). It’s simply missing the target making such a general statement (i.e.: the "dirty and rough" remark), and pointing that out - from my chair - doesn’t equate into a swinging d*ck mentality.

The best horn systems are expensive and very large, difficult to deal with. They are not common so most have ZERO experience. You have also made that leap to digital signal processing which has developed its own peculiar mythology based on poor conceptualization.

The thing with horns and for them to work their best is large size, design and implementation, and usually that’s not all of which the domestic varieties will accommodate easily. Myself I’d much rather have big pro segment horns than smaller, expensive "hifi" dittos; what the latter seeks to achieve with "cultivation," fancy finishing and higher prices, typically passively, is hampered by a physically compromised outset that can’t be compensated for, while failing to take advantage of a DSP approach actively - what you touch upon yourself.

Speakers and rooms not being perfect, it is the only path to the highest performance unless you are extremely lucky. I have seen this once in my lifetime, the system of a high school teacher. This was in 1978 or so. The speakers were Pyramid Metronomes with Threshold Electronics thrown haphazardly into the livingroom of a small apartment in Miami Florida. This was the very first time I heard a system image correctly. What a wonderful system.

Indeed, few really nails it.

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I listen to orchestra music.  If my room was small I’d have to adjust speaker size, but my room is not small so I’m using full range speakers.  I’ll likely purchase articulate subwoofers to extend the bottom end and fill in the lower audio spectrum. Maybe I’ll try Sopraninos to see if beneficial in the top end.

I usually don’t think in terms of large or small speakers but rather what is their frequency extension relative to the type of music I listen to.  Adequate bass energy require drivers that can handle the music.  

Especially for mihorn who requested it.

SACD played on an Oppo95 through a Yamaha RX-Z9 RECEIVER in Pure Direct mode with no eq or room correction, electronic or physical, through the Mermans recorded on a Nikon D750 DSLR in the sweet spot. Room is ~5,000 cubic feet.

This will wake you up!