Horn speakers with Imaging?

Do horn speakers really offer good Imaging? My SAP J2001mkII do offer great clarity and revealing music, but no Imaging.
Some do but I think most don't. I find the Edgarhorns to image quite well within a fairly narrow sweet spot. The SP Tech speakers also image well over a wider area. I'm afraid that I can hear the loudspeaker as the sound source with most other horn systems that I can think of offhand; in general the qualities that draw people to horn loudspeakers lie in other areas.

There is a horn loudspeaker in development that images quite well and does an exceptional job of disappearing as the sound source, as the designer has gone to extraordinary lengths to minimize image-degrading and coloration-generating artifacts from both the horn and cabinet. I've heard the prototypes, and intend to become a dealer for this speaker when it becomes available, hopefully within the next few months.

I'm sure my observations here are incomplete, so hopefully others will share their knowledge.
I have a homebuilt cabinets for JBL S8R system with potato masher horns. Awsome imaging and soundstage. I think it depends on how you set them up and how you drive them. Did you check to see if the speakers were connected in phase? That may be why you have no imaging. Check the driver hookups in addition to the amp to speaker connection..
The new Avant-Guarde Meta-Uno that I heard at CES05 were sensational at imaging. However, most horn speakers are not know for their imaging.
A guy that i had known for years had never heard a "high end" audio system before. I had been to his house a few times for parties and even repaired some gear for him ( Pioneer receiver and Pioneer speakers ), but he had never come by my place.

As far as gear goes, all of his stuff was basically thrown wherever it would fit and treated strictly as a tool to listen to music, much like most people do. As such, he had one speaker up on a desk and the other on the floor. They were aimed "wherever" and the sound was obviously nothing that would ever get me excited. None the less, he was happy with what he had and listened to music for several hours a day every day.

When he finally made it over to my place ( he started dating my girlfriends best friend ), i put on an Ian Anderson disc and told him to have a seat in the sweet spot. I selected a specific track and had him listen to it. On this track, there's a specific part where a ringing bell literally walks across the entire width of the soundstage. Each time the bell rings, you hear the bell strike and decay a few feet away from where it was the last time it sounded. On top of that, the bell retains a specicic height above the floor as it moves from one side to the other, adding to the specific spatial cues that one hears.

When this part of the song came up, i saw his eyes raise up and his back stiffen. Obviously, he had never heard a system that presented both a consistent soundstage with good imaging. As soon as that part of the song passed, he turned and said "how did you do that?". Needless to say, I told him that there is information like that on a lot of different recordings. His response was to say that he had never heard anything like that, not even on headphones. I proceeded to pick out a few other discs that he himself owned and would be familiar with. After seeing that there was quite a bit of music that he owned but had never heard come out of his speakers before, he asked why that was. I told him that it had a lot to do with proper speaker placement and room acoustics.

After explaining a few things to him, we made arrangements for me to stop by and help him get his system dialed in a little better. Quite honestly, there wasn't much to work with, but we were able to get things sounding much better when all was said and done. He now had a much better performing system, but it was still limited to being a Pioneer cd player feeding a Pioneer receiver feeding Pioneer floor-standers.

A very short period of time after that, he ended up upgrading all of his components and speakers. When i asked what made him do that, he told me "my old stuff doesn't sound good anymore". There were a few "friendly cuss words" involved once he took the plunge into better gear, telling me that it was all my fault that he had spent all of his money on a new stereo. He never really got into "audiophilia" as i had hoped, but he does have a decent system that he's quite happy with.

And the moral of this story? The speakers that he heard all of the imaging, soundstage and spatial information come from were a set of modified Klipsch Heresy's being driven by a used $350 SS amplifier. Obviously, horns can image. Whether or not they do is up to the individual design, proper speaker placement / room acoustics and the quality of the signal being fed into them. Sean
My Avantgardes image beautifully and I have heard even better with the same speakers in better rooms than mine.
I agree with sean. Placement , room , components & mostly the speaker design itself plays a big role. My Mauhorns which are quite big in size ( approx. 36"x13"x32" HWD ) disappear completely. I am unable to place them with my eyes closed. The presence is tremendous with a 300B amp .
Only problem, they are very directional. One feet away from the sweet spot & the whole perception changes. Also one needs to have the listening seat a bit away than usual for proper integration between the drivers.
Sean, can you give me the track and CD, I would like to hear it on my Cornwalls, VRD, BLueberry, ES333C sony setup.
Sean, please tell us what modifications there are to your Heresys. One wonders whether the mods have added significantly to the imaging abilities of your pair.
Thanks, Lee
My Avanatgarde Duos disappear from my room. I just hear musicians. The images are slightly fuller than say with my LS3/5a speakers, but real musicians don't provide pinpoint images anyway.
Experimenting a lot with them is the key. Pull them way out from the back walls then try measuring how far the horns are from the listening position and your ears by placing a tape measure from the end of your horns within 1/8" tolerance / distance of each other to your ear and also decoupling them from the floor with something like a svelte shelf. You may like what you hear. Horns CAN image but I'm not familiar with SAP. Now, can they do texture is another question. Perhaps you can describe your room setup, positioning and partnering equipment?

My previous Klipsch Forte 3's imaged very well. The Cornwall 4's that replace them were not imaging quite as well until I began tweaking the audio equipment driving them with brass spike and cup style supports. You might notice that the thinner speakers tend to image better than wider speakers right out of the box.

Wow, seeing this thread pop up is a trip down memory lane.

Eighteen years ago I wrote the first reply of this thread, and then-unnamed prototype speaker I mentioned was the magnificent Summa by Earl Geddes. Earl ended up selling his designs direct and mostly as kits, and has since retired. And about a year after that 2005 post I became a speaker manufacturer too, with my designs all drawing on things I learned from Earl.


@audiokinesis . I was reading this thread thinking about how well your Jazz Modules did with imaging and soundstage with the directional waveguide (I guess it qualifies as a horn?). Nice surprise to see your post when I got to the end of it!

Nice seeing S.P. Tech (by Bob Smith) mentioned by @audiokinesis, although back in ’05 now. I owned a pair of their Timepiece MkIII model around 2010. Two friends of mine still use the Revelation model in their respective setups, one running the Rev’s full-range and passively configured, the other fully actively and subs-augmented (with the Rev’s high-passed). Bob worked on a Grand Rev model with dual 10" Seas woofers (same as used in the Rev’s, just bigger) and an oval waveguide, a behemoth of a speaker, but it never got to see the day of light before SP Tech went under. Especially the subs-augmented and actively configured Rev’s of my friend image really, really well, and are somewhat more resolved and transiently clean than their passive counterpart (which are a fiendishly heavy load to most amps; they were developed with the Crown Studio Ref. I’s). It’s one of the few setups I’ve heard that can make a well-recorded large symphony orchestra come fairly authentically to life, even organ concerts, which is no small feat, though not least a testament to my friend’s ability to actively implement and tweak a setup in the extreme. That said they sound bottlenecked compared to my own, also actively configured setup with very different speakers for pro cinema use and Tapped Horn subs.

I've owned some really good mini monitors as well as floorstanders known for good imaging, and none have been better, or even as food as my Klipsch Epic CF 4 speakers. They have a more complete soundfield than the others. In other words, instead of left, center right, there is no dropout between the three. The soundfield is more continuous as well as larger and taller.


I remember when you shared your vision with me when I was on my horn journey.  At that time you were not in the production stage.  Glad to see you are progressing on your dream

WELL! My K horns image so well that I hear DEAD PEOPLE!!!! like MILES DAVIS, GEORGE DUKE, MICHEAL JACKSON, RAY CHARLES AND MUDDY WATERS!! and if the GREEN is good I will be dancing with my K HORNS while BOB MARLEY is JAMMING!!!! YA MON

The Volti audio horn speakers do a good job at imaging and have a relatively large sweet spot.  

The Avant Garde speakers I have heard also do that but their sweet spot is smaller and it is quite noticeable when you are on the edge of their coverage.  

About 6 months ago I set up some floor-attached angle jigs perfectly aligned together with the wall behind them. Angle matching between the speakers is determined by measuring the distance between the leading speaker edges and the wall behind. Speakers can now be in perfect alignment as to distance from wall and angle. This makes fiddling with imaging much easier. With Cornwalls very slight adjustments can make big differences in imaging, tone, treble response, bass response, etc..

I love this imaginary imaging conundrum (IIC).  Live music blooms and breathes and blends together to create a beautiful harmonic landscape.  Vague hints of directionality or placement are occasionally present but most is due to our visual cues.  Even when more definitive imaging may be present, a realistic portrayal of that information is generally larger and more rounded than IAIA’s (Insane Audio Imaging Aficionados) would prefer.

Most speakers can be made to image quite well--it is mostly a matter of placement of the speaker in the room and the placement of the listener in the space.  I've heard truly massive horn systems image beautifully, even in surprisingly small rooms, because someone did a great job of setting them up.  Giant horn systems may not be ideal for the "disappearing act" that is so prized, but, they can get the scale of the music to be large and realistic (with tiny monitors, even if they can fill the space, you don't get the sense that the music is coming from sources of the right size).  The directivity of horns can also help to minimize the effects of reflections from nearby walls and that can help with imaging too.  

Does everyone have the same definition of imaging?  In audio terms, what doe that word mean?

Imaging is not the strong suit of the motherload of horn speakers out there...But, there are some exceptions. You can go with the high end JBL/Everest line if you're not on a constrained budget....They are ok with imaging.

But, if you are strapped for cash...You ever heard of JTR speakers? Typically, hometheater guys who also float on the audiophilia boat tend to get these. Nevertheless, these can image quite good in addition to slamming the living daylights out of you. They do look ugly as fk though (like most horn speakers).



I had great dynamics but minimal imaging until I followed Jim Smith’s setup procedure for my Avantgarde Duo’s. Taking time to really try different, repeatable steps and moving away from the rear wall now gives a wide and deep soundstage. However, the imaging only really works in my listening spot. 

My wife enjoys music and likes listening with the system but isn’t at all interested in sitting in the sweet spot. Her view is that at a concert (blues/rock) you don’t hear pinpoint sources. However, she does like the dynamics and feeling of being at the venue that you can get with horns.

I agree with @willgolf above: I welcome more info on 'imaging'. What exactly is it, and how do you test or listen for it? I understand that it has to do with the localization of instruments and voices in space, and maybe also with the speakers 'disappearing'. But how is it different from similar terms, like 'soundscape'? One reason I ask, is that imaging seems to be very different things in my sound systems. On the one hand, the floorstanders in my main rig are bipoles that fill the room with sound, very lively, but maybe not the last word in precision. On the other hand, the Arche Fr2 single driver speakers give a very sharp pinpoint type of sound picture - extremely different. My Nightowl headphones, also single drivers, give a third kind of picture, somewhere in the middle, but more like the floorstanders. I find that with these very different presentations, deciding what is 'best' is difficult.

@linkoping   perhape2 the Volti Razz:

"....the stereo image projected by the Razzes was proportionately larger, and the musicians (and groups of musicians, including whole orchestras) seemed more real than with the Zus...." Stereophile here

" ....to cast a wide and deep soundstage, even with their rear panels placed close against the wall (front porting helps here…). These speakers do a more than decent job of “disappearing” in spite of their size, Presentation of image was also considerably better than I would have suspected, with solo instruments or vocalists suspended in precise three-dimensional space within the soundstage ..." Part Time Audiophile here


The main thing that hinders imaging in my systems, is wrong cues, nonharmonic distortion especially in the high treble. It the treble is wrong the image gets blurred. This is a problem with many causes, including bad recordings and production, use of compression, as well as the playback system. Testing Tori Amos: Speaking with trees (streaming). Her voice is distorted. No matter the system I use for playback. Otherwise the image is quite good, but this - no thank you. I have not heard the LP, though.

Checking a ’standard’ LP in terms of sound, Stones: tattoo you, I find that the sound is quite good and coherent, but here also, the recording is a bit too hot when the band sings and plays at full throttle. This is a remarkably "thoughtful" album, and the music sounds best when it is more subdued, moody, Even with Mick singing falsetto.

On the other hand, my best sounding LPs display few of the problems mentioned. The music is just there, I don’t worry about imaging or depth etc. Recently, Endresen and Wesseltoft Out here in there. Shelby Lynne Give me some loving. Cooder etc By the river. The best ECM and Speakers Corner records. Analogue Productions Doors at 45 rpm. And many others. All LPs. Streaming is still not up to the same level of emotional involvement in my system.

It has been argued that bipole speakers give a somewhat diffuse image, not as sharp as monopoles. This may be true, but a lot can be done by positioning the speakers and tuning the system including the room.

I find that, with my best-sounding LPs, my bipole speakers sound sharp and detailed - I am not sure if I need any more. The precision, needed for a good image, is good. Atlhough not quite as good as with the best pinpoint speakers I've heard.

The same thing goes on, with my medium or not so good sounding recordings, but now the outcome is no longer so good. My system is musical but also analytical, so it is like the system can now sound worse. Or more revealing. I hear the problems of bad recording, production etc. Its a give and take.


@willgolf wrote:

Does everyone have the same definition of imaging? In audio terms, what doe that word mean?


From Alex Halberstadt’s Stereophile review of the Klipsch La Scala AL5’s:

The Klipsches created sonic images that were eerily, entirely life-sized and placed them on a stage as large as the recording and the room allowed. Combined with their hair-raising dynamic chops, this allowed the La Scalas to come uncannily close to creating the illusion of real musicians playing in a room. That’s a big-time reviewing cliché, so perhaps a more effective way to communicate this is to say that they reveal how radically most speakers—even large ones—miniaturize the dynamics and scale of recordings.

This to me underlines how a vital aspect of speaker "imaging" has become or rather for long has been a (limited) thing of itself in audiophilia - that is, as something that is less a representation of a live event and more a cultivation of sorts into the the smaller, more laidback ".. razor-sharp sonic holographs" that is so prevalently hailed by many in this hobby of ours. Later in his review Halberstadt writes:

Last, while the La Scalas throw an enormous and cavernous soundstage, they do not create the razor-sharp sonic holographs of the kind conjured by certain contemporary minimonitors. But if that’s crucial to you, you probably aren’t considering these speakers.

This may (or may not) to some degree tie into the following comment by John Atkinson in his measurements section of the La Scala’s:

... the tweeter’s output arrives first at the microphone. The output of the midrange unit doesn’t arrive at the microphone for another 1.5ms, while the woofer’s output starts to arrive 2ms after that. Although the arrivals of all three horn outputs are within the ear’s tolerance for arrival time difference (footnote 2), such behavior could interfere somewhat with stereo imaging precision.

Using horn-based speakers myself I can attest to the importance of either physically time aligning or (actively) digitally delaying the individual driver segments to more properly cohere into a sonic "simultaneity" of a presentation as a whole. One can almost "see" the radiation bubble forming more smoothly in front of you when carefully applying the right amount of delay, and the positive effects it has on spatial acuity. Certainly the "life-sized" aspect of imaging or overall presentation that Mr. Halberstadt touches upon - ideally in proper conjunction with delay or timing execution as well as attention into power response and dispersion pattern matching at the crossovers - in general is severely overlooked.

However to think that he was only presented to a fraction of a larger potential, while still being so enthused about what he heard through the La Scala’s, puts into perspective the outlook that is possible (and fully attainable) with horn-based speakers when more closely considering all or at least additional aspects in their implementation.

@phusis - thanks, very informative, although I havent measured the 'radiation bubble' in front of my bipoles I can well imagine that it changes like you say.

But what do you mean by 'life sized' imaging? That images should not be too tall? Or too close up? Too bombastic? I find that this varies with the recording and production, and when the presentation is too forward and in my face, I push the listener chair back.

One oddity about Audiophile vs. "real people" listening is our penchant for single seat optimizing vs. wide listening locations.

Worth kind of keeping that in mind when we discuss imaging and our preferences.



I have not heard any system where one could say that ideal sound was available in an area that could accommodate more than a single listener.  The closest was a big room with omni-directional MBL speakers and a giant horn system in a room that was bigger than 25' by 40'.  In both cases, if two people sat really close to one another, the sound was pretty good for both.  In my own system, even a few inches of movement one way or the other des affect the sound, particularly the imaging.  My system does emloy a horn for the midrange compression driver.

I've heard many types of horns image well in various setups at shows, at dealers, at peoples homes. As stated above setup is key but that's the case for any speaker really.

A big plus with my bipole speakers is that they sound good from a larger listening zone, not just a small sweet spot. Especially when setup with radical toe-in, so the  sound crosses a bit in front of the listeners. Is this detrimental to imaging? Not to my ears. Or just a very small minus factor. Sidewall reflections are also reduced with radical toe in.

Extreme toe-in creates a larger sweet spot because the speaker that is farther away is actually closer to being on-axis, which compensates for the additional distance.  The down side, I find in most cases, is the sense of width and an enveloping soundfield is diminished a bit.  Like most things, every choice has a trade off.

From my experience, most horn speakers, while they can create a big, open sounding soundstage, do not have the best image specificity.

The only horns I have hard, that do have great imaging, are the Acapella Violincello.


@o_holter wrote:

... although I havent measured the ’radiation bubble’ in front of my bipoles I can well imagine that it changes like you say.

I find it to be an almost visually descriptive term a la ’sphere of sound,’ a sensation that can be created more effectively with certain point source speakers when the driver segments have been dialed in successfully wrt. timing/delay, power response and overall dispersion type/pattern - ideally emulated as a point source like Tom Danley’s synergy horns.

But what do you mean by ’life sized’ imaging? That images should not be too tall? Or too close up? Too bombastic?

In reference to the linked La Scala review by Alex Halberstadt, and supporting my own stance, ’life sized’ is addressing and exposing the lack of image size/scale from other speakers, and where the reviewer found the La Scala’s to excel by comparison.

Though it’s not explicitly clear it seems to me he may be linking overall image presentation and size with dynamic capabilities as directly proportional aspects, at least to some degree. This certainly makes sense to me in how dynamic prowess can more effectively "flesh out" the presentation - perhaps aided by the more narrowly dispersive nature of horns/waveguides - as something perceived akin to a live event.

Moreover the effective air radiation area of horn-based speakers is somewhat larger vs. direct radiating and lower efficiency dittos in that the combined displacement isn’t only dictated by the mouth areas, but rather extends (i.e.: grows) even further in front of the horn mouths. So, the combined air radiation area of the La Scala’s could easily be seen as taking up more than the totality of its frontal area. That being said the La Scala’s aren’t the tallest speakers around, and to me at least I find them to lack energy and ultimate fullness in the height dimension to really give that sensation of room fill and less-reproduced feel that taller horn-based speakers can more properly provide for.

Well designed, and not least larger horn profiles/geometries (and to some degree depending on the amps) aren’t up-close or creeping into your ears per se, but are rather present or immediate sounding. There’s a difference. All things being fairly equal; the larger the horn the less "aimed," more relaxed and yet physical it sounds - not wholly unlike the presentation of larger panel speakers, but more dense and visceral by comparison.

I find that this varies with the recording and production, and when the presentation is too forward and in my face, I push the listener chair back.

If the front/aft balance is right, and there’s no reason it can’t be with horn-based speakers, then the recordings and their variations in presentation should see no immediate need to shift listening position, but I guess that’s up to each to decide.

I owned Klipsch Forte III's and thought the imaging was a little non-specific.  The Volti Razz I replaced them with were much better.   I currently own both Volti Rivals and Fleetwood Devilles and both image spectacularly.  Like any speaker topology, it depends on the implementation.