True high-end Speakers need a midrange

To be clear, I don’t mean expensive, I mean high performing.

I recently built a new center speaker for my home theater and as I was comparing/contrasting design alternatives between a variety of designs, everything from expensive DIY designs to Wilson, Legacy, ATC and Focal and others the thing that stood out the most was this:

  • You can’t get high output AND low distortion without a midrange driver.

I say this as a person who has had pretty good success with 2-way speakers and really admire 2-ways from Fritz and others, but when push came to shove, there was no way to make a 2-way with very high output AND low distortion AND excellent off-axis performance without a midrange driver.

You can push many tweeters down to 2kHz or even a tad below but it is very hard to find a tweeter that will do so with low distortion at high volume. On the other hand there are many 1" domes which will perform excellently when crossed over at 3 kHz or higher even when driven hard, things you don’t see from a frequency response plot, or really any measurements from Stereophile which never plots dynamic range charts. It’s not just about the frequency response and imaging, sometimes it is about doing all of that under pressure that matters.

Similar, complementary issues are true for the woofer in a 2-way design.  First, good mid-woofers with good frequency responses through 2-4kHz are expensive, but as you push the crossover up 7" drivers and larger have to beam, right in the middle of the midrange.  Instead of a wide open sound stage you can hear anywhere they restrict where you can sit.

In a large, full range speaker you can push your design for high output even further by going with a 5" midrange for instance.  Not quite as wide as the 4" counterparts but lots of power handling and plenty of overlap with the tweeter and woofers. 

  1. Power Demands: SET tube amplifiers, especially those with lower power output like your 8-watt Decware 300b, may struggle to drive lower efficiency speakers to high volumes without distortion. While you may be satisfied with the volume at your listening position, pushing the amp too hard could result in clipping and distortion, affecting the overall sound quality.

  2. Impedance Matching: While your Sonus Faber Electa Amator speakers are 6 ohms, which is within the typical range for tube amplifiers, the lower efficiency (88db) means the amplifier needs to work harder to produce the same volume level compared to your higher efficiency Klipsch Forte IV speakers (99db). This can potentially stress the amplifier.

  3. Dynamic Range and Headroom: Lower efficiency speakers may have a reduced dynamic range, and they may not handle transients as well as higher efficiency speakers. This can affect the overall clarity and impact of the music, especially in complex passages or when playing music with wide dynamic range.

  4. Volume Control Position: If you find that you need to turn up the volume controls (preamp, tube amp, and Roon) close to their maximum settings, you might be operating at the limits of the system's capabilities. This can introduce more noise and potentially impact the linearity of the amplifier, leading to a loss of fidelity.

  5. Matching Components: Not all amplifiers are well-suited for all speakers. While your SET tube amp may pair well with high-efficiency speakers, it might not be the optimal choice for lower efficiency models. Matching components in a system is crucial for achieving the best sound quality.

Perhaps the OP can explain the perceived performance and measurements of this loudpseaker

At every opportunity this long term denizen of this Board is telling everyone that they can not understand high end audio unless they build their own loudspeakers and he seemingly, in retirement, is stuck on this mantra like a beaten up Crosley turntable stuck in the groove of the beaten up Donnie and Marie Album that has passed through fifty different garage sales. 

He, I suspect, is trolling any Devore Orangutan owners too. I refuse to bite. 

Hi @fsonicsmith


As I pointed out earlier, the intent of this post was really to elicit technical replies. Much like great art is often done as a reply to what has gone before, I thought that posting the merits of a 3-way design, and the challenges it solves would also cause others to come up with "but what about...." replies, and it has, rather beautifully.

Apologies if that sounded like absolutism, but given how this board functions I thought it would be understood. Now, for this...


At every opportunity this long term denizen of this Board is telling everyone that they can not understand high end audio unless they build their own loudspeakers

I’ve never said anything like that. I have said that I wish more audiophiles would build (cables, amps, whatever, not just speakers) so we’d have more arguments built on practical experience rather than either relying on manufacturers, myths, or reviewers.

Arguments over capacitor sound quality and break-in are a great example. More builders = more actual experience.

and he seemingly, in retirement,

Now you are downright making stuff up.

I am however always happy to troll anyone over the use of the "high-end" moniker. We get far too wound up over what it is/is not and who has it and how much it should cost.

I am also very amused at how many "high end" audiophiles get all wound up over the idea of participation in this hobby that is something other than going to the store and spending a lot of money.  Tinkers built this hobby and the brands you so admire.  I have no issue with consumers spending lots and lots of cash on stereos.  I just want to encourage the remaining 99% to get their hands dirty now and then as a satisfying way to enjoy the hobby as well.

I'm honestly surprised we don't have more arguing that any speaker with a crossover is a hot mess and the only high-end speakers are single driver, point source full rangers.

PS - I dont’ have a thing against Devore Orangutan or Audionote or the original Snells the AN is based on. :) I think they are excellent exemplars of 2-way design that take the room into consideration.


But buddy, have you tried building a Seas A26 kit? :) A crossover tinkerer’s dream speaker.