We should reject hard-to-drive speakers more often

Sorry I know this is a bit of a rant, but come on people!!

Too many audiophiles find speakers which are hard to drive and... stick with them!

We need to reject hard-to-drive speakers as being Hi-Fi. Too many of us want our speakers to be as demanding as we are with a glass of wine. "Oh, this speaker sounds great with any amplifier, but this one needs amps that weigh more than my car, so these speakers MUST sound better..."

Speakers which may be discerning of amplifier current delivery are not necessarily any good at all at playing actual music. 

That is all.


Erik, guess you don't like Maggies, Apogees, Infinity IRS, or Wilson WAMM?---Eric.

Hey @Bdp24

Well, not saying I don’t l9ike them, ribbon speakers have a reason why they are so low, and they have a pay-off that’s worth it.

Interesting that you bring up the Infinity speakers. Not sure about the IRS, but there were lesser models with crossover designs we’d now consider "naive" at best. You can buy crossover upgrades which maintain the tonal balance while raising up the minimum impedance.

I analyzed a pair of Focal 918 speakers and really had a tough time believing the crossover design was NOT deliberately meant to make it hard to drive. Some caps and resistors in the woofer section dropped the impedance to unnecessarily low values below 100 Hz which could easily have been avoided.

In the case of the Infinity speakers I’m thinking of, they were designed in an era when we lacked the simulation tools we have now, it could have been they got to the right sound and then didn’t want to also optimize to avoid the low impedance.

I guess I’m unhappy with speakers being hard to drive... just because they are hard to drive. 😁

And less happy about anyone idolizing that as a feature.


OK, thinking about this this is less about the gear and more about the awe created by hard to drive speakers.  Like we somehow want to make the speakers happy because they are so demanding.  Maybe we should get speakers that are happy with any amplifier instead??

It’s not a problem practically in most cases anymore with modern efficient Class D amps. Having choices is a good thing. Most people want their hifis as a whole smaller and less obtrusive these days (if they even want them still at all). Smaller harder to drive speakers with practical more efficient amps needed to drive them solves that problem.  To each their own. 

Interesting...I'm considering MBL 101E speakers, but I'm hesitant due to them being hard to try.

You need an amp and speakers to make sound.   As long as the amp is up to the task you are good to go.   Granted many may not realize that their amp is not up to the task. 

Erik: Very much agree about Infinities. I had a pair of the RS-1b’s, which so many people think were/are great. Anyone thinking about getting a pair: be prepared to have them reconditioned. Many of the EMIT and EMIM drivers are now unusable, having been manufactured to pretty low standards. Bruce Thigpen’s Eminent Technology LFT drivers made at the same time as the EMIT and EMIM drivers remain in perfect working condition (I have LFT-4’s made back then). And as you say, the crossovers are junk. But that’s true of the crossovers in most loudspeakers! Maggie owners: pull off the plate on the back of your speakers and look at what the signal is passing through!!

When I read about the Apogees I became instantly uninterested; who wants to have to listen to a Krell amplifier? ;-)

Great examples of each but I will say I’ve never really liked any super efficient speakers. I heard some Cornwall 4 when I was buying a sub for a guy and they sounded great for the little bit I heard them but playing music I don’t listen to at not very loud volumes. LOVING my new B&W 801 Matrix. The voicing is just so freaking good for me. Again pigs to drive. 

Interesting subject. I know of a few a'phile friends who bought speakers without first contemplating what amp will work with them. These folk either no longer own the speaker, or they have bought high powered ( and usually low SQ) ss amps to drive their speakers. Then we have the guy who bought a SET amp with 8 watts/ch hoping to drive his Wilson Alexia's. Disappointment might as well have been his name!

Problem is that unless one is listening to basically horn based speakers, then the requirement for upstream power is going to be factor. But, I do agree with you, the needs of a speaker like the YG's, or the aforementioned Apogee's, should be a turn-off to most hobbyists.

MBL is an awesome speaker.  One of the most serious speakers in the world.  MBL can be brutally revealing and difficult to drive.  Bring your A game or keep looking.  I've heard Convergent amps drive the heck out of them, but a lot of really good amps will struggle at some point to keep their composure.   

While I don’t disagree but people want small speakers and deep bass so that in turn makes them hard to drive. They often wire multiple bass drivers in parallel  which drops the impedance too  

I have owned 86db speakers and 91db speakers and don’t notice much difference but use a pretty powerful amp at 450 watts a channel. I am in the camp of but the biggest speaker you can afford and bigger is always better lol. 

HTD speakers matter! Come on it’s 2023. I thought that we were supposed to get over this back in the 60s when we had all those speaker riots. 

I have never liked an efficient loudspeaker/set amp combo.

What is an efficient loudspeaker anyway? 100+db? 95+db? I’m not sure if I ever have had a speaker > 90db, but I have had some 85db stand mount speakers driven by 1000 watt monos that sounded fantastic, most of my speaker/amp combos were around 88db driven by 250-350 watt monoblocks

A good way to make any given loudspeaker an easier load is to remove the low frequencies from both it and the power amp driving them. Yes, a separate woofer/subwoofer for 80 or 100Hz down. Most of the power demands of many loudspeakers is used to reproduce low frequencies. Remove them from the loudspeaker and power amp and both will be happier, and sound better.  

I just want a loudspeaker that creates resonances within my abdominal cavity and may crack a window if not careful.. 

But I cannot afford most of those that cost what amounts to a decent down payment on a piece of property or a house.


There are just those days, and just those tracks, where I want to FEEL the music much more than I care about hearing.. fine detail that is.  ;-)

preamp active  crossover to powered subs and biamp loudspeakers, with some eq room and mood correction.. now to just not blow up the speakers I do have..

What does it matter how efficient a speaker is as long as it sounds good? 


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This is a bit ridiculous and I assume clic bait. Get what you like and enjoy the music. It does not have to be complicated. Hard to drive speakers require more power, more current. There are high quality amps that can do this???

Hard to drive speaker requires big macho amplifier.

Hard to process software programs require more powerful processors.

More to buy, more to sell, more ka-ching.

As the Byrds (almost) sang,

To everything, churn, churn, churn.

There is a profit, churn, churn, churn.

@fikki: The MG3.6 can easily be bi-amped (unlike the series-crossover .7 series Maggies, the .6’s have parallel crossovers). Use a brute amp on the bass drivers, your D-70 on the midrange/tweeters. In almost all loudspeakers, the majority of the power goes to the woofers. Take the bass out of your amp (with a high-pass filter), and you will then have far more power for the mids and highs.

I think you should FIRST try very hard to find efficient speakers you really want, without even listening to inefficent speakers. Don’t even look sideways at them.

Next: listen to whatever appeals to you, even if low efficiency, KNOWING, power needs will go up accordingly.

So, find a low efficiency speaker you truly want? The best efficent ones you found would be a true compromise?

Forget compromise if you can afford it.


IF the difference is slight, then think long: efficient = less power needed = same benefits as listed below, but now also easier to try tubes= less cost; less heat; smaller; easier placement .... add all those benefits to the speakers, combined a great sounding choice? If tubes, less tubes, less replacement/rolling cost ....


@fikki:  You are trying to drive 3.6:Maggie’s with 65 wpc.  That is never going to work in my experience.  I started with an AR150 amp and it was under powered.  Luckily I found a great pair of McIntosh MC501s (16 years ago).  The sound went from great to amazing.  I use a tube pre amp as I find that is my sweet spot.

IMHO, listen to speakers and find what pleases your ear.  Do not differentiate based upon anything other than how they sound to You.  Then see what is the best way to drive them.  If the cost is beyond your means, then move to the next candidate.  Building a system is a complex algorithm, but keeping an open mind regarding how to get where you want to go is imperative.

Obviously, Maggie’s work for me and the price is having a substantial amp and I accept that.  Others may prefer a different amp and that is cool, but most all 3 series Maggie owners use a beefy amp.

good thing there are so many great speakers out there...no issue to me what other people like, or designers choose to design...if a speaker is very demanding but the buyer is good with that, so be it...

+1 @bdp24. It’s all about the bass. The bass! Not the treble.


Driving speakers effectively that is.

IMO, electrostatic speakers are worth it.  Very worth it.  Like, never imagined recorded music could sound like this, worth it.  Started with Quad63s and now running upgraded Sound Lab M1s. Never going back. But I have had to upgrade my amps. Significantly. Hard to drive.

Good news is that class D amps are improving quickly. I’m auditioning a D-Sonic M3a-1200s, based on the Pascal LPro2. Jury still out. But power to price point ratio is so low I had to try it. 

I’m pretty sure speaker designers go for sound quality first and end up with hard to drive speakers. I was a long term fan and owned electrostatic and ribbon speakers (Acoustat, Apogee)… I was happy with the journey… and owned several enormous heavy and expensive amps.


If one doesn’t like hard to drive speakers, it’s pretty easy not to buy them.

Over the last 40 or so years I have found that I gravitate towards low efficiency speakers with silk tweeters. Those sound best to me. Yes, it is sometimes a pain to get a good match for these as they require gobs of current, but at the same time that is where the ‘magic’ lies to my ears.

I also realize that this was most likely click-bait, but a fun topic none-the-less.

It is good that we are now in a time when we have almost limitless choices in this hobby. The downside is that there are relatively few places any longer to go to hear these choices.

Enjoy the music everyone, and have a good weekend.

Since I got the Hegel H390, I haven’t found a speaker it can’t drive, but I really can’t speak for the thousands of speakers I haven’t tried yet.


My Acoustat Model X’s come with forty watt mono blocks that have more than enough oomph to power them full bandwidth and with a crossover set at 100 hz, and a sub or two, it’s crazy good! 


Your reference to hard to drive Infinity Speakers brings back memories of my first "high end" purchase. In the early 70's I was at a hi-fi store in Palo Alto. They had the Infinity 2000A Electrostatic speakers (4 Ohm) on display playing a Cat Stevens album. To my young and naive ears they sounded spectacular. I don't know what amplifier they were using, but it was probably top quality, better than my Sherwood receiver at 60 watts a channel. I scraped up the money and bought the Infinity's. They sounded great even though my Sherwood was probably struggling to drive them. About a year later I traded them in, the speaker's power cords were quite inconvenient in my small apartment.



@ericsch: Small world! In 1071 I heard the 2000A at the same shop in Palo Alto: Sound Systems was it's name. They were running all their speakers (including the Infinity Servo-Static I's) with SAE electronics.The 2000A used a number of the wonderful RTR ESL tweeters, and were far more transparent that the AR 3a and Rectilinear III's I had been considering. I didn't have the $$$ for the 2000A, so got the 1001 instead. A year later I heard the Magneplanar Tympani T-I (also at Sound Systems) powered by ARC electronics, and it was a new world ;-) .

@bdp24 Yes, it was Sound Systems, a really nice shop. From reading your posts, we were living in the bay area about the same time. Winterland, Fillmore, Avalon Ballroom, etc.

I traded the Infinity's in for SAE speakers, also not very efficient. Then moved on to a Mac C-26 and a Crown amplifier, couldn't afford the matching Mac 2105. 

Damn @ericsch, again! I too got a C-26, along with the MC2100, which was the version of the 2105 without meters. $499 vs. $649, iirc. $150 doesn’t sound like much now, but back then I guess it was! From there is was onward and upward: an ARC SP-3 and D-51 and D-75 amps, with Maggie Tympani’s. By 1972 Sound Systems was no longer pushing SAE and Infinity, but rather the hipper ARC and Magneplanars.

Yeah, San Francisco was (is?) a great town for seeing live music (but then so are L.A., NYC, and Austin). I saw the first appearances of Cream, Hendrix, and Jeff Beck, plus all the old guys Bill Graham booked into his venues, like Albert King.

With my musical tastes I kinda wished my Dad had stayed at Lockeed Aircraft in Van Nuys (he transferred to Lockheed Missiles & Space in Sunnyvale)---I then coulda seen Buffalo Springfield, Love, and all the other SoCal groups/bands emerging at the same time the hippie bands were up North. I saw The Dead and Airplane in ’67, but they’re not really my kinda thing.


Some audiophiles are "amp first" seekers, others are "speaker first" seekers.

If you are an "amp first" audiophile and in love with lower powered amps, that will limit your choices.

If you are "speaker first" then your choices are mostly wide open for speakers.  You get the speaker you like, choose the amp that will drive them.

My speakers are highly inefficient, but very easy to drive with Sunfire amp. Will that work for Hifi?

The market is pretty efficient at selecting products folks buy or don’t.  How would you propose increasing the rejection rate of hard to drive speakers?

Isn’t this a hobby for enjoying and can anyone else really judge the best speakers for someone else?


When in 1974 I read Ivor Tiefenbrun’s philosophy of the hierarchy of a hi-fi system being that the first component in the chain is the most important, the second is the second most important, etc. etc. etc., I knew he was full of sh*t. OF COURSE the second can only reproduce the signal it receives from the first (garbage in/garbage out), but there’s more to it than that simplistic, obvious fact. One astute UK reviewer (Ken Kessler?) mockingly proposed a system composed of a Linn table/arm/cartridge, Naim pre-amp and power amp, and a string leading to a pair of tin cans for speakers. Get it? ;-)

Pickups/cartridges and loudspeakers---being transducers---are FAR more variable in sound than are, for instance, pre-amps. And loudspeakers sound RADICALLY different from one another. Power amps? Not nearly as much. Choosing your loudspeaker first, and then finding a good power amp to drive them, is obviously the correct (okay, best) way to assemble a system. To do the opposite is just ridiculous. IMO, of course. ;-)

Recording engineers choose their microphones for each mic’s particular sound characteristics. And what is a microphone? Why it’s a transducer, of course (mics operates in exactly the opposite way as do pickups/cartridges). If you think the engineer’s mixing console (electronics) is more responsible for the sound of his recordings than are his microphones, may I respectfully suggest that you don’t know sh*t?  No offense intended.

@nevada_matt   Absolutely, and I'm mostly there. *G* 👍  Some tyding up to do, but...

Born and vaguely bred in S/W grater LA, Long Breach. *L*  Backed into audio by way of shortwave/amateur radio, because it always sounded Better in the other room....;)  
Long strange trip later, Here.  My excuse, stuck with it in allways.

Speakers 1st, my vote.  Why & How?  It's complicated....*G*

@erik_squires     No-one's 'idolising' speakers that are hard to drive.  It's just that many of the best-sounding full-range speakers are hard to drive.  Unfortunate fact.  Something to do with the difficulty of finding free lunches?

No-one’s ’idolising’ speakers that are hard to drive.

I think the real answer is between everyone and no one. The implicit situation set up is "well, it’s a demanding speaker, and it’s my fault for not having an amp up to it."

It’s like an implication there is something wrong with the audiophile if he doesn’t have mega amps. Why don't we instead say "there's something wrong with the designer of this speaker if they rate these 2 ohm speakers at 4 Ohms and expect us to fix their bad design?"

If you buy stuff that doesn’t work well together, guess who’s fault it is ?


IMO, electrostatic speakers are worth it. Very worth it. Like, never imagined recorded music could sound like this, worth it. ...


Good news is that class D amps are improving quickly. I’m auditioning a D-Sonic M3a-1200s, based on the Pascal LPro2. Jury still out. ..


This is an interesting topic I hope to revisit again in a few more years. My local dealer still in business after 53 years is a Soundlab dealer. He’s an all-tube guy. No longer carries any SS amps. Have heard my larger tube amps on super large Soundlabs there. Not sure it was enough amplification, hard to say. Always wondered how some of the larger Soundless would sound paired with highly developed Class-D AGD or Purify based amps. Following closely next few years as this unfolds a little more.

Not yet, but If I ever pick up a pair of really great Class-D monos down the road, I'm gonna bring them to the local shop and see if he'll give it a go on the electrostats. 

If you buy stuff that doesn’t work well together, guess who’s fault it is ?

If a speaker is rated at 4 ohms but is actually a 2 Ohm speaker that is not the buyer's fault.

My point isn't about whose fault anything is. It's about what  we venerate.  "ooooooh, a half ohm speaker which needs a super amp... I must be mas macho if I get this working!"

...speakers need a warning label, like cigarettes and alcohol?


Would this stop anyone?

Not likely....

yes Erik, the manufacturer providing false information is a very different issue than knowingly buying difficult speakers and not being prepared...

I personally have. Dynaudios are hard to drive, I don't buy them anymore, even though they are very high quality. Hard to drive speakers aren't fun at low volumes.

I also see this problem kind of hidden in reviews.  Something like this:

Speaker xxx was clearly able to discern the difference between amp A and amp b so it must be very resolving.

It wasn't at all very resolving, or discerning.  It was demanding.

I don't know what percentage of high-end speakers are considered 'hard-to-drive' but I think it's a shame one would want to exclude them simply for watts. You might be missing 'your speaker', disqualifying it needlessly.

These days (like computer memory) good sounding watts don't have to break the bank. There are very good A/B and D amps out there for speakers wanting watts.

Like many (most?) others my system is designed around loudspeakers. To me, they are the single most important component in any musical reproduction system, and the most different sounding, when compared to electronics, especially. (I guess you could design a system around a CD transport if you wanted to take it there.)

But if you did buy hard-to-drive, lean-sounding speakers, huge tube amps might break the bank if that's your only out...  And personally, most all of the extremely high-efficient designs sound a bit too analytical for me. Warming up the sound with a high distortion little tube amp is humorous (and I've owned tubes as well).