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.


I have tried, relentlessly, for 30 years to find a high efficiency speaker I enjoy.  It has been a total failure, I have tried hundreds if not thousands of pairs.  Everything by Klipsch makes my ears bleed, Zu's excite my cats too much, Tannoys and most others are ridiculously expensive and leave me completely cold. When amplifiers with more than 30 watts were expensive it was worth the effort. I now use a 40 watt tube amp to drive Audio Physic speakers that are 89dB and 4 Ohms, the work effortlessly. 


My room is L-shaped...front wall is 20’ wide, length is 26’, rear wall is 26’ wide, and 9’ ceiling. My room is rather "neutral", not too lively and not dark.

With those speakers in a room of that size I would expect you'll need about 200-400 Watts. I don't know of an integrated amp that makes that much power. 


I think I understand where Eric is coming from.

In my view, it is all right that there is a wide range of speaker technologies, ranging from ultra-efficient to very much inert such as certain panels and plasma tweeters. They all have their unique sound characteristics, their inherent strengths and weaknesses. So we have a wide range of choice and experience.

However, what I find sad is the fact that there has a been a trend to make such speakers hard to drive which necessarily need not be hard to drive. That tendency was fueled by folly to imitate the more expensive hard to drive technologies with the much cheaper regular electrodynamic drivers - just plop in a crossover to kill the output level and suck out the amplifiers energy and waste it as heat. That way manufacturers can boast that their normal speakers are now hard to drive, just like the coveted hard to drive technologies.

What the unsuspecting customer is unaware of, is the fact that their inefficient beast would likely sound much better if it had been designed with a proper crossover, and used proper driver complement in the first place. As, the second reason for speakers being inefficient is that the driver compelemnt does not match each other and the designers need to use excessive crossover EQ to match them, So, effectively, covering up poor parts choices (which are always driven by the lower cost).

Now, as far as getting these insensitive speakers at low prices - there's nothing wrong with that. The folly is though, that these badly designed speakers are often sold at a premium.

Now, that's the reason for rejection. But I do understand varietas delectat, and people while being very frugal im most situations, are willing to be completely vulnerable when it comes to well-marketed products.

After all, who would question the integrity of such companies, as for example B&W?

PS: while a high power amp CAN drive a 2R load, it sounds much better, with a fraction of distortion driving an 8R load..... had that 2R speaker been designed with proper driver complement & crossover, it would sound significantly better with the same beast of an amp...




Good topic, Erik.

A difficult speaker load is created foremost by its passive crossover, more so really than (a purer load) low impedance and low sensitivity as a function of the drivers sans passive XO. Combining higher sensitivity, higher driver impedance (i.e.: 8 ohms minimum, as pointed out by @atmasphere ) with an active approach would be ideal in making the most of both amps and cables, and in effect the sound coming from the speakers with the better, direct amp-driver coupling.

What I don’t get is seeing these complex passive filters in many a high-end segment speaker that really only nurtures the forced existence of crazy expensive amps, and which comes down to the need for them to be more or less impervious to load in the face of steep phase angles and the occasional ultra-low impedance dips in the lower frequencies. All the more reason to go active and start throwing those mega amps under the bus, because actively they wouldn’t be needed any longer.

If indeed there’s merit to the claim of people consciously looking for speakers that are known to be a difficult passive load, for reasons apparently that it’s somehow deemed a desirable trait in a speaker, it would seem a fool’s errand; to my ears difficult-to-drive speakers usually can’t shake off an inherent sensation of them actually sounding like a difficult load, irrespective mostly of any beast of an amp thrown at them, so why bother with such speakers in the first place?

I always wonder that too. I think the original reasons were that the loudspeakers were cheaper and so were the higher powered solid-state amplifiers. But that’s not really true anymore.

Also for cone speakers (generally) just shrink the voice coil and widen the gap and “bingo” you’ve got a much flatter frequency response (and usually less expensive manufacturing cost)

I have tried multiples of pairs of rather low sensitivity loudspeakers.

Dozens of them…not 100’s though (likely BS on anyone having tried 1000’s of pairs lol)

They always leave me dry, but many of friends and family seem to enjoy them so again it’s all subjective.

I’ve got  both types of systems now (one in the basement another in outer building)

For the low sensitivity system I’ll get compliments on how “smooth” or “nice” they sound.
To me I’ve come to take these adjectives as code words for “flat”, un-exciting or “not dynamic”

But it’s the never ending story, and taste can’t be argued.