Line Arrays - Competitive with best dynanics, ESL?

Line arrays don't get talked about very often at all. We all talk about our Wilsons, or Kharms, or Von Schweikert... of course the representatives from the planar camp, the maggies, ML, Soundlabs... Also the horns - Avantegarge, Acapella, etc....

What about the line arrays? I used to have a pair of bottlehead straight 8s. Cheap, well implemented line array, and they sounded awesome. They didn't rewrite the books of detail or dynamics, but threw a very lush soundstage, and had a tonal "rightness" about them.

Has anyone changed from a well-regarded dynamic, planar, or horn and moved to a line array? Pipedreams? Wisdom? Others? What are the pros/cons of line arrays in your opinion?
Line arrays are used widely in the professional audio market for large venues. It seems the distance helps the point source act as a line source, making up for the spacing between the individual drivers and evening out the sound. Unfortunately, my listening room is not quite large enough for this phenomenon to occur. Wisdom Audio speakers which I own in my system utilizes planar magnetic drivers for the line source in their high/midrange tower where sound is evenly eminating from the complete height of the driver. They do use the line array model in some of there bass towers (4 woofers).
Since my room is limited in size, I chose the Wisdoms. I will agree the soundstage and tonal "rightness"(neutrality?) is phenomenal.

I know Pipedreams used the line array model with success as heard in their room at past CES.
I am a convert, having owned six traditional cone type loudspeaker systems before discovering Sound labs.

The A-1 (and later) Ultimate 1 Sound Labs had every modification and tweak possible done to them and were my absolute favorite, maintaining the reference position in my system for more than 15 years !

My reference now is the Dali Megaline, a large 7.5 foot two way line speaker. As with all speakers there was a lot of break in and moving them around the room to get the sound right.

I eventually wound up having a custom tube crossover built (the only one of its kind) to replace the Dali factory transistor electronic crossover.

The Dali is a true bi-amp speaker, no parts inside the cabinet except for the ribbon and woofers. These drivers are directly connected with heavy gauge wire to the speaker posts.

There is a definite advantage in having removed all the crossover parts, such as inductors, resistors, capacitors, transformers, circuit boards or whatever else might be required for traditional crossover designs.

The signal goes from preamp to (new) tube crossover, to four mono block tube amps. These amps connect directly to the drivers, offering immediacy, micro detail, dynamics and hard driving, fast bass. Plus. Being a two way there is incredible coherence.

As my new tube crossover nears absolute break in, I am getting the best sound I have every had (or ever heard).
I'm a line array convert too. Good ones will generally come at substantial cost, because high quality drivers are not inexpensive and many are used in these systems. Also the cabinets will be large. That said, some superb designs are very attainable, such as GR Research, Selah Audio, Epiphany Audio, and RAW Acoustics. At a higher price point look into Gryphon, Nola, Genesis, Wisdom, etc.

Line array loudspeakers are typically designed for nearfield listening, while commercial/professional line arrays are optimized for farfield listening. The design goals and intended use for each type are quite different.

You will find a lot of great information about line arrays in Jim Griffin's well known white paper. Download it at
I moved from large electrostatics (InnerSound Eros) and also Klipsch horn speakers to VMPS RM30s (a ribbon-hybrid line source). I'm getting the best detailing, focus, and transient speed I've ever heard. The biggest surprise is that the RM30 were every bit as good as the Klipsch Chorus in reproducing wide dynamic swings.

As with other types of speakers, not all line sources are created equal. I'm a big fan of the line-array design, but the performance of the various models and brands can and does vary quite a bit.

Not trying to take anything away from the RM 30's since I haven 't heard them, but with a height of 22 inches from the 3 stacked planar drivers, it hardly constitutes a line array. Unless of course your ears are about a foot or two away from the speakers. This is all the better as far as I'm concerned since combining line source mids with point source LF and HF drivers is not a very wise choise for a multitude of reasons.
Pros/cons of line arrays?
I'll share my experience (listening, not technical) with the Selah Audio Incredarrays (consists of 10 Seas Excel W15 mid-bass drivers, 8 Fountek JP-2 ribbon tweeters and 2 Peerless XLS 12” subwoofers per side). This is coming off of several $15K dynamic speakers, as well as dipoles and ribbons.

Here's what they do better than any other speakers I've owned:
1) dynamics. Having 20 very good drivers per side conveys a lifelike punch and an instant transition from soft to loud and back again
2) leading edge transient response is amazing/startling and akin to the real thing
3) lifelike height! Compared to these, most speakers I've heard vertically shrink the soundstage.
4) presence, especially to vocals, that's uncanny
5) detail, and more detail, without etch or glare
6) integration. The drivers are reasonably seamless without a hint of breakup at transition points
7) room loading. They don't fight with the room, needing far less correction from my Tact than my last speakers
8) air. 16 ribbons that are quick enough to make cymbals really shimmer
9) easy to drive. your choice, tubes or SS.
10) not the absolute best in depth (my Genesis were better) smoothness (my Talons were smoother (but too recessed through the mids) or width (think 15' apart Dunlavys)-- but they're more balanced and natural in both soundstaging and imaging

Some might want more lush mids. Some may want a less forward presentation (stage-wise) and a softer upper mid/treble perspective. I thought they might be a little harsh in the highs on some material, and that saxes were a touch on the ruthlessly revealing side when I first got them, but now I think they're just right in these regards, accurately portraying what's on the recording.

They're big!
6' tall and 2' deep rectangular boxes 8' into the room. But I've yet to hear a speaker presents a realistic stage that isn't way into the room. I'd considered smaller speakers (since I have corner subs (time-aligned with the Tact) but once you hear the dynamics and presence of the big boys it's hard to go back.

Thanks for all the great responses guys!

Albertporter - What dynamic speakers did you own? What compelled you to move to the Sound Labs? Can you compare/contrast the pros/cons of the Dalis relative to the Soundlabs?

Richards - Does Selah still make the Incredarrays? On their website the only two line arrays that they have are the Alexandrite and the XT8. Have you compared your Selahs with other known excellent implementations ie. Pipedreams, Dali, Wisdom, etc?

The reason for my interest... is I an taking a lot of time researching the speaker implementation that I feel would suit me best long term. I will be buying a house within the next year or so and I will be looking for a great room to build an audio system around. I would like my auditioning to include speakers from each camp (dynamic, planar, horn, line-array) so that I may conclusively decide which methodology I prefer. It has been my experience that a speaker (and room of course) lends the biggest contribution to the overall sonic picture, and electronics and accessories "voice" and alter that picture, so my plan is to first choose the speaker I would like to live with long term, and build the system around it. I already have some exellent electronics (supratek, plinius, sota, etc), but I have no problem changing electronics if they are not compatible with the speakers I choose. I currently own standmounts from the Dynaudio Contour series, which I do very much enjoy, but I would like my "this is it" system to kick it up a notch. I listen to and enjoy jazz, classical (large and small scale), rock/vocal (acoustic and amplified), rap, and electonic music. The speakers that I choose must be able to shine with all these types of music. Currently on my audition list are:

Budget - Would not like to go much higher than $15k

Note - I have a Velodyne DD15 on its way. WIll most likely add another at some point for a true-stero bass integration, utilizing the high-pass crossover to the main speakers. So- dead on full range down to 20hz is not a requirement for my speaker choice as the Velodyne(s) will handle this.

Dynamic: Merlin MX
Wilson Sophia (have heard these, my top choice so far)
Audio Note ($10-$15k range)
Verity Parsifal (a bit over budget)
Dyn C2 or C4 (gotta represent 'cuz i'm a dyn owner)

Horn: Avantegarde Duo

Planar: Sound Labs A1
(I've heard a few maggies and the new Quads, and while they're both great in some ways, aren't good enough "all-arounders" for my broad taste in music)

Line-Array: Still need to choose a couple representatives in the up-to-about-$15k group to audition


I am into Maggies, but, based on listening experience, the only dynamic system that I might buy would be a line array. "Line array" is a better description than "Planar" for Maggies, since the panel is much higher than wide. Because a line array has so many drivers, they don't need to have the long cone excursion capability and powerful magnet that is necessary for a conentional box. Therefore, while high quality (expensive) drivers can't hurt, they may not contribute much. I am interested in the potential of an "open" line array using full range drivers (which don't have much bass anyway). Augmented with a SW of course. Next DIY project.
Todd: Check out the Selah forum at Haven't heard any but read many super raves of Rick's speakers. I'm sure you can have a killer line array for under 15k. I've always wanted to hear some line arrays since they seem like a great idea but all I've read. It surprises me they're not more common. They are expensive and large though.
Albertporter - What dynamic speakers did you own? What compelled you to move to the Sound Labs? Can you compare/contrast the pros/cons of the Dalis relative to the Soundlabs?

Since the late 1960's when I was still in school, until now:

Bozak B-4000, Bozak Concert Grand, JBL S7R (vertical), ESS Trans Static, Crown ES 224, Snell type A, Dale Pitchers Essence reference 10, Vandersteen 2C, Vandersteen 4A, and ProAc Future Ones.

During the time I owned these, I auditioned almost every speaker made as I spent several years running three high end audio stores and then took a job as the factory representative for a group of audio manufacturers. I travelled a five state area calling on and setting up high end retail stores.

The lines I carried as factory representative were: Kirksaeter, JBL Commercial, Infinity Systems, Yamaha, Denon, Crown International, Ampex USA, ESS Systems and MB Electronics (Germany).

I listen frequently to speakers owned by friends and members of my audio group. Combined, they owned (and I've listened to at length): Magneplanar 3.6, Magneplanar 20, Vandersteen 2C, Vandersteen 5's, Kharma Exquisite 1De, Sound-Labs A1, Sound-Labs A3, JM Labs Mini Utopia, Wilson Watt Puppies, Wilson Grand Slams and Quad 989.

As for pros and cons of Dali Megaline versus Sound-Labs.

Sound-Labs is still the winner for ABSOLUTE perfection in phase accuracy, the ability to combine midrange, sweet treble and kick butt bass into one perfect, coherent package.

The Dali is more efficient, much greater dynamics and contrasts, larger soundstage with the ability to play complex classic passages with ZERO compression and without volume limit (should you choose loud :^).

I am still working on the coherency thing.

The new tube crossover resolved most of the issues I had and I suspect the next step will be exact matching of the four mono block amplifiers. Frankly I and members of my group are stunned at how good coherency is now and I'm running mixed design amps. VTL (6550 output tubes) from 1100 HZ down and Air-Tight ATM3 (EL34 output tubes) from 1100 HZ up.

Everyone knows how sensitive the human ear is at 1000HZ, and I'm accomplishing what I have with these two amps "shifting" duty right in the sweet spot.

More tests forthcoming as the crossover continues to break in. I hope to try four Air Tight ATM-3, four VTL 750's and possible four Atma-Sphere MA1's.

As for budget minded lovers of line source designs, the GR Research line by Danny Ritchie is a wonderful speaker. Danny is working on two new line source speakers and a well known cabinet maker is teaming up to deliver finished product. The two line sources will be available in two heights and corresponding quantities of newly designed BG ribbons and Peerless 6.5" woofers.

I would almost warn anyone to wait for these before buying. Estimated (high side) price is $4995.00.
Albertporter - I am familliar with GR Research, though not with any of Danny's line arrays. I bought a pair of Paradox 1s from him a while back. I don't have them any more, as I sold them to a friend when I moved to my Dynaudios. (I have plans to go visit them and see how they're doing at some point) But man... what an awesome pair of speakers for $500 dollars.
Albert - I take it you prefer your Dalis to the advanced Kharmas and Wilson Grans Slamms? The Wilson Maxx's I find quite amazing. I have heard the Exquisites, but I don't think the system was setup properly, my demo with them was less than stunning.
I love the Dali and the Kharma. Without a doubt the best two best sounding rigs of all my friends and contacts.

The guy that has the Kharma Exquisite owned the Dynaudio Evidence a couple of years ago and I could live with that speaker too. It was amazing when it was powered with Audio Research Ref 600 Mk. lll mono blocks. (Same speakers sounded horrible at the New York show last year.)

The Wilson are in a (literally) million dollar system and the worst sound for the money I have ever heard. Of course I don't like his source, choice of components, interconnect or speaker wire, or his set up, so no big surprise. It's not the Wilson fault but it certainly keeps me from having any interest in them.

Another friend in my group has Wilson Watt puppies and his creams the million dollar rig, so set up and associated gear is a big deal with the Wilsons.

The Kharma Exquisites are in a A+ room and the system is identical to mine. Walker TT, Koetsu, Aesthetix Io, Aesthetix Callisto (both Signature versions with dual power supplies) and all Purist Dominus.

When this system is right, I will enjoy it every bit as much as my own. I know what the Kharma Exquisite can do.

Truth is though, until (and unless) his system gets amazingly better I am happy right where I am. I currently prefer my Megalines and they are $68K less money. Good thing, because I cannot afford $110K speakers anyway.

As for GR Research, it's Danny' Ritchie's company:

The link is to his archived images of the line source. He has none in stock and waiting for the new BG and Peerless drivers. Appearance will be similar with one model shorter and one the size and equal number of drivers as the Dali Megaline (but without electronic crossover). See link below for his other design, the Epiphany 20-21.

Audiogon show coverage, Epiphany here:

Danny's speakers will be the one to beat for the dollar. They are dynamic, efficient and VERY cost effective. If they are priced anywhere near what Danny is projecting, his new line source will be less than half the cost of anything remotely close.

Good news for Audiophiles :^).
A multichannel format that I am very interested in is 2+2+2 (instead of 5.1). This uses High and Low (position) speakers for the Left and Right front, and is advocated by the MDG label. (Center and Subwoofer channels are used for the high speakers). Supposedly it contributes strong height information to the sound field. A line array could be wired up so that the drivers were fed High signal at the top, and Low signal at the bottom, with a variable range in between. I will have to try that when I build mine.
Hi Albert,

Not sure if you'll see this thread (as it's over 2 years old...) but...

Having totally forgotten about this thread, completely coincidentally I ordered GR Research LS6 line arrays a couple months ago. I'm on the AV123 preorder list for a pair in piano black, and I'm hoping they will be shipping within the next couple of months.

The funny thing, is that 2 years ago you happened to recommend looking into what Danny was doing... and now, completely unrelated to your advice, I happened to stumble on this thread again, and saw your advice to look into Danny's designs.

After 2 years of research and auditioning since this thread, these are what I've landed on. I'm excited to hear them.
I have not seen or heard that new speaker design, but I'll bet you made a good decision. Please post results when they get some hours on them, I would love to know how they compare with what you had.

If travel ever brings you my way, give me a call. You can listen to the Dali's.
I hated my bottleheads -8s;) And messed about much the other DIY line arrays one can build a hi performing loudspeaker with a LA but I still perfer large front horns systems.As always YMMV
I have the prototypes of the LS-6 and have been living with them for about 6 months've made an excellent choice!
Todd, Rick Craig (Selah Audio) will build any line array you want (including Incredarrays) and it would still be covered by your $15k budget. I also suggest you email him to discuss your needs at length. Since you'll be using a pair of high-quality subwoofers, he would probably recommend nine 5" Accutons or ScanSpeak Revelators together with eight Fountek ribbon tweeters. He is also a specialist in using DEQX in his line arrays for the ultimate in speaker correction/speaker crossover/subwoofer crossover/room correction. In the meantime, check this beauty.
Vladimir - Thank you for the Selah recommendation. Rick Craig's designs look very good.

Like I mentioned, though, I've already put a deposit on a pair of GR Research LS6 produced by AV123.

The price is definitely right on these. Danny Richie says they set the bar even higher than his discontinued Alpha LS design. I'm excited to try out the true line array design.
a well executed esl will probably be less timbrally inaccurate than any line array.
a well executed esl will probably be less timbrally inaccurate than any line array.

Do I sense a little "bomb", Mr T.

I don't think I will enter the fray here except to say that any large radiating surface or line (panel or array) will have a markedly different dispersion pattern compared to a point source. As the line array becomes large relative to the listening position then the energy will fall off inversely with respect to distance as opposed to the inverse of the square of the distance for a point source or as opposed to no drop in energy with distance for an infinitely large surface.

Throw in room wall surfaces and it gets even more complex as some signals from different parts of a line array or surface become additive when reflected to the listener and some signals cancel as they are reflected to the listener. Some of this complex reverberation may be countered by a stronger primary signal reaching the listener. Nevertheless the reverberant field may vary quite significantly with listener position (standing/seated or off center).

In essence any radiating lines or surfaces tend to result in a more complex reverberant radiation patterns in the room. (Bear in mind that a point source is pretty complex already...)

Note: I have said nothing about what sounds best - this is a matter of taste about the reverberant sound field.

Certainly for rock concerts and arenas, line arrays and walls of speakers are very effective in reducing the drop in SPL with distance - giving similar levels of loudness to more listeners. (A point source would be too loud for those at the front or close to the speaker and not loud enough for those at the back or seated off axis)

...back to regular programming
ESLs are the Jaguars of the audio world. Great...when they're not in the shop. Reliability has improved, but is a serious detractor for people who would like to listen to music on a regular basis. I don't even consider them an option.