Which SPEAKER for the 21ST century?

Cones vs Electrostats vs Ribbons Can we all somewhat agree that the speaker is the most important component in our system? We are all familiar with the cone driver. Has the old tech cone(mid/high) driver reached its potential zenith? Does the electrostats have the potential to become more efficient? Size less overwhelming? As well will the prices ever become reasonable? And last will the new tech(mid/high) ribbons become the choice drivers for high fidelity music reproduction for the new century? All comments are well appreciated.Thanks
Sorry, I can't somewhat agree. It's called a system for a reason. Weakest link and all that stuff. I've heard mediocre speakers sound pretty good when hooked up to superior electronics and good front end. I've also heard some excellent speakers sound like crap when hooked up to mediocre electronics.

To your question about cone drivers, I am a fan of the full range driver (Lowther, et al.) and from what I can see, they continue to improve and have not even begun to approach their potential.

Superb vinyl + tube preamp + SET + Lowther = bliss

Don't knock it if you've never heard it!
Cone driver systems have evolved more in the last 20 years than planar speakers have. I am a Soundlab guy, and 20 years ago there was NO cone speakers that could touch Soundlab.

After hearing the new Kharma and Avalons at CES, I would say it is now a close call, with both systems offering something the other cannot do.

The next 10 years will bring great advancements to Soundlab and other planar speakers, I know of one on the burner at Soundlab that will be remarkable when it happens. Although you can rest assured that the best of the cone driver speakers will continue to evolve with better crossover parts, faster and lighter drivers and even better designs for cabinets.

This is good for all of us. Truly, high end has gotten much better in the last few years and will continue to evolve, as long as there are dedicated listeners to buy these products.
I was watching a kid run the bases the other day with someone timing him. He was, shall we say, portly. I laughed and thought a calendar would be more appropriate. Opposite with speakers. The calendar is irrelevant. Right now, Harbeth makes a speaker, the Monitor 40, that reproduces as accurate a facsimle of real life as you can get. If you can't afford it, try the Compact 7.
Herman these questions are presented with all genuine curiosity. If you read something in there thats not, then... I'll take the 5th for the moment..
Can anybody second Paul's "as alive as you can get" British Harbeth($3K) cone drivers? Harbeth has been around for like 30 years. If they are the superior cone driver then most of us would have them by now...no matter what the price! For the speakers mentioned lets keep things in clear perspective and put price tags. Avalon's $6K. Kharma's $17K. Sound Lab starts at $7K up. Herman i can find a few amps say $3 to $5K i like(all are tubes). I can find a few CDP's say $1800 i like. But i'm perplexed as to the speaker component in the equasion. Here goes: whats the weight of the Khramas the Avalons and the Sound Labs? On a scale of 1 to 10 what is the LAF ( the Lady's Acceptance Factor) due to size due to weight and most importantly due to price?
I for one would like to see more widespread use and innovations in cabinet design. A large portion of the sonic capabilities of my Hales is credited to the very thick front baffle (their older models used several inches of concrete). Vandersteen also took similar drivers and did the opposite to reportedly good effect. Most interesting are the non or quasi-cubic designs by companies like Waveform and B&W and believe they have potential in addressing a couple of the drawbacks associated with cone speakers.
From my extensive experience with all types/genres of speakers/drivers, and what not(5 high end audio store sales possitions, 1000's of installations/sales, way too many audiophile shows, demo's, auditions, and in home experience)I think we either need to go more in the dirrection of higher sensitivity(or ultra sensitivity) drivers, or active speakers!...if we're ever going to move further from up the sonic lader that is. There's been ten' of thousands of loudspeaker and driver designs over the last 40 years, and not much in the way of mass market upswing in the end product quality of the loudspeaker as a whole. I take it back, we've gotten good enough as loudspeaker designers(not me of course), that we can get very very clean and clear sounding speakers to market, using various methods of passive designs and such. But still, in the area's of dynamic transparancy and believablity, I think some of the stronger designs out there(i.e, Avantgarde horns, or ATC active speakers, Avlar active's, or other high sensitivity/high output speaks and such) have shed some stronger light on the need for more dynamically surefooted and authoritative speakers, that will bring the quality of pressentation up to where it should be!
Most speaker manufacturers shy away from such agressive designs, I think, simply for cost and simplicity of manufacturing. I believe, unless more "active" speaker designs, or much much stronger/high sensititity drivers are produced, there's really not much more that can be done to further the audiophile higher end sound reproduction ladder!
I know a lot of recording studio's are using active speakers, and I think there's a whole whole lot to be said for going with more advanced speaker set-up's this way.
There are some manufacturers out there producing home speakers like this, but they're all ultra expensive at this point!(well into the tens of thousands of dollars).
Passive networks and speaker designs are ancient, and it's time we moved on, or up. We've got the tranparency, detail, and soundstage thing down. Now I think we, the audiophile community, needs to see some more affordble designs put forth, which really push the dyanamic envelope.
There's far too many dynamically polite, non-believable/realistic sounding, delicate, dainty, audiophile speakers out there, and it's all pretty much been done a gillion times before, with small improvements here and there. With the advent of the sub/sat systems, and home theater, w/adjustable crossover networks, and such, bi-amping speaker systems has helped out the home theater crowd a bit, with the ablility to delegate bass mangagement in such a way that it gives a much more dynamic sound pressentation, that's definitly advantages for movie tracks, and makes music listening a lot stronger sounding. Although, for audiophile purposes, in regards to high end purity and refinement of overll sound, as you know, this hassome drawbacks.
Really, again to be redundant, in the 2 channel audiophile world world at least,there should be a call for an advance in the areas I've been describing. All the passive bi-amping in the world can only go so far ultimately. Manufacturers can do so so much more with today's technology and experience. It's a shame there's not more affordable out there that meets this need!
Tweekerman. My guess is that we hear things differently. For example, some sounds are certainly more annoying to me than to my wife or kids. And some people love speakers that I think are irritating. Who knows?

In response to your query, although Harbeth has been in business for 25 years, their proprietary RADIAL material used to make their mid-woofers was not introduced until 1994 in the Compact 7 and the Monitor 40 came out a few years later. Alan Shaw, the md/designer/proprietor took over the company in the late 80's I think, and his current cabinet design philosophy (lossy instead of inert) was also introduced with the Compact 7.

Because the things he has written over the years have made sense to me, and because of his experience and expertise, I am persuaded by Professor Greene's (REG of TAS) choice of the Monitor 40 as his reference.

Me, I'm easy. With a few exceptions, I like almost anything someone else has spent a lot of money on.
Paul its true all speakers have their limitations: sound size weight and last but most certainly not least the price. What irks me to the max is the claims that advertising makes about a speaker that to me falls way short of those high praises. As well the amount of hype that surrounds certain speakers that to me is not justified...Where are Mr.Plato and Mr.Gassman when you need them most...
Cones have a lot more potential than they seem because they are almost always put into a highly compromised cabinet with suboptimal crossovers (both parts quality and filter type). Most of the complaints about box speakers can be traced to these two areas, and this is where big gains can still be made. I agree also that active systems have a lot of potential, but if done properly will cost every bit as much as a separate amp and speakers, with less flexibility, so in the end I'm not convinced they will take over the world. The biggest problems with stats and planars are efficiency and room interactions, and these are both more or less inherent to the design itself and cannot be fully solved.
Personally i've never in my life have heard a midrange cone that produced high fidelity sound. Its always a mid/tweet that worked to the best of its potential. Think about it. The size of a electrostat panel takes MUCH more energy to drive than a two way (tweet/mid + woofer) Efficient cone speaker. But the one t/m cone driver has a very small surface area thus BIG soundstage will never be realized to the degree we all like it. Which leaves us the ribbon to consider. Ribbons are more efficient than electrostats = better performance from our amps( sorry big high quality watt ss amps are not considered i'm thinking of high quality tube amps with say 50 to 100 watts). Midrange ribbons have a much sweeter sound than any cone mid and can almost match the electrostats superior mids. Ribbon tweeters are comparable to high quality cone tweeters. Ribbon tweeters are a tad superior to electrostat panels for the broader imaging. On to woofers/bass. The electrostat produces the superior mid/bass over both ribbons and mid/woofer cones. For the lower bass frequencies woofers do what electrostats cannot. So a good sub can be added to electros but more$$. Ribbons possess the best qualities of both. Albert says that Sound Lab has a superstat in the works maybe 10 years. Some of ya'll say the cone will soon correct its deficiencies. I'm saying the ribbon is here and now and will be choice of speakers for the new decade. I say decade because with computers around who can really say what will be the choice speaker after 10 years. At present its the ribbon hybred design. I may be mistaken on some points and so open to correction.
Hi tweekerman. Have you heard a Lowther driver or it's equivalent? From your statement "never heard a midrange cone that produced high fidelity sound" I would have to venture a guess that you have not, or that you've heard them in highly colored boxes. Of all the things you can say bad about these drivers, midrange is not a weak point. That is the very reason most people buy them. The midrange is world class.

Have you heard the pipedreams? They use cone drivers and sound exquisite? Very expensive, but they sound great.
My dream speaker, for the 21st century, would be extremely efficient (+100db), full range (goes down to 20hz), have a generous sweet spot, and be relatively compact (48x10x20). And, of course be musical, dynamic, and have an accurate tonal balance. One more thing it would cost less the $5k retail.

Now back to reality.

Currently, ribbons are too inefficient to be used full range, and would preclude SET amplification, but may have no peer when it comes to speed and producing a natural sound (Apogees were great but needed a lot of power). Single drivers (Lowther, TAD, Mits) do not have the extension (on the top and bottom), weight, and they beam. Also, they are too big if you want to get any bass out of them. Dynamic cones are cheaper and easier to manufacture and can move a lot of air, but give up the immediacy of ribbons, especially from the midrange up.

I actually do not care what drivers this new 21st century speaker uses so long as it all works well together. Extrapolating on the current technology this "speaker" would have to be some sort of hybrid with dynamic cones, possibly active and hopefully have a ribbon midrange and/or tweeter. I think some older designs with new technology might be viable. How about redesigning the Infinity RS-2bs (with their open baffle "ribbon" tweeter and midrange and sealed subwoofer) to become more efficient with an active subwoofer?
So far i have NOT received 1 response that answers any of the above questions satisfactorily. I'm sure this web site has more than 4 members. How can anybody be satisfied with the majority of speakers out there.
Tweekerman, perhaps my political correctness in protecting newer cone speaker designs was too much. I cannot imagine a better speaker than Soundlab, and only wonder how much better they can be in the next version.

If you could hear Ultimate One Soundlabs set up with analog and all tubes you would have no reservations about what ultimate performance can be.

Provided the room acoustics are engineered properly, and all the electrical is dedicated and grounded properly, there is less compromise in the musical performance than differences experienced from one performance hall and another.

The one reservation in my statement is DETAILS. Details are what make the difference in any system, and the higher end one strives for in performance, the narrower the margin for error. The art of making a music system as perfect as it can get is much greater than the sum of it's parts.

In short, even if a "perfect" speaker existed, and it never will, some owners will have worse sound than we have today, because they simply cannot get the rest of the system right.

Okay. Here goes:

1. Yes. Speakers are the most important component in our systems.

2. No. New materials are always being developed; lighter materials for cones, stronger magnets, etc.

3.,4.,5. Possibly. Electrostats may improve like any other technology, but there does not seem to be a whole lot of interest in this technology. Reducing size seems even more unlikely, as the panel vibrates so minutely that the only way to get bass volume would require large panels. Cost would be dictated by its market acceptance. Large panels in the living room have low WAF, so lower prices are unlikely.

6. The "new tech ribbons" if they exist have the best chance of succeeding if they can be efficient, but only when used with dynamic cones. Read my earlier post.

I think the bigger issue with regard to speaker design breakthroughs is that our best and brightest minds are not working on them. The suckout is probably due to computer technology and all its relatives. And also, the relative lack of profit potential, both on sole proprieter and big business levels. Think about it, over that last 18 years (the length of time I've been involved in audio) has there really been any major breakthroughs? Back then, there were some systems (all analog) that provided as much or even more emotional impact than any system I've heard today, even though it may not have been as refined or transparent.
Sure Albert the Sound lab's ULTIMATE A-1's are in my opinion possibly the best OVERALL speaker on the market. There are no cone speaker in the world going to produce mids/highs sound stage imaging and every other description like the labs UA1. And i've never heard them before. BUT at $18K!! I mean most of us can never touch them. So yea the "perfect" speaker is made avaliable. But WILL sound lab find the TECHNOLOGY to make this speaker smaller and more efficient and less expensive. I guess their other models. But they as well have the above problems. So they are "not" the "answer" to our speaker problem here. When i hear the VMPS ribbon speakers I'll post my opinions. If they are everything i expect they are then i see ribbons as the most practical and wise choice as THE 21ST CENTURY SPEAKER. If you are a)single b)rich and c)have the room then the SL's are the winner, QUAD's as well are a serious contender to the smaller model SL's and the larger VMPS. All my research has led to these 3 as the showdown. If you and i hear them together you may put the 3 in one order and i in another, some personal preference may be involved. Our choice in amp will be a very important factor AFTER we decide which speaker we will take home. BUT the speaker choice is the tough choice.Why tough? We need to consider 1) efficency 2)size 3)sound as in mids/highs/soundstage/imaging/midbass/bass/etc. 4) $$ or are they $$$$. By which standard shall we determine a systems sound. There are none. However you could use Jadis 800 amp Jadis 800 preamp as the reference in power. Thats a $100,000 reference point. Which could be pointless but then again may not be. You could use the reasonable priced Jadis JA60 interg. @$5K,as a comparison to all other amps in this range and lower. So lets assume this as the reference in amps. Now onto CDP's. We could use the LINN at $20K as reference point. But again out of reach. So lets say the Capitole and/or Mephisto at 6 to 8K. Again here is our reference to all other cdp's in this range and lower. Lets use Sound Labs as our reference in speakers. Listen to them first BEFORE you buy a ribbon or cone speaker so as to get a BETTER idea of what you are about to buy. But who can fly all over the country auditioning audio? (audio clubs are a big help here) I expect no agreement on my unusual possibly odd ,maybe even strange (OK... abit crazy) ideas. But who knows something may come of all this nonsense. One final thought. Can anybody even begin to imagine how this system would sound in a large perfect acoustical room. JADIS 800AMP + JADIS 800PRE + LINN CDP + SOUND LAB UA1...WOWW!!!
Tweekerman - do you see anything wrong with this statement? "Sure Albert the Sound lab's ULTIMATE A-1's are in my opinion possibly the best OVERALL speaker on the market. There are no cone speaker in the world going to produce mids/highs sound stage imaging and every other description like the labs UA1. And i've never heard them before".
Lets assume my statements are correct. I did say possibly. I've read reviews and have seen statements made about speakers that are way off the mark (they did not sound sublime to any degree). But in this case I've done my research and read between the lines and added every thing into the equation and thats how i came up with these BOLD (but confident) statements. Heck all i need is just one SL owner to step up to confirm. But i'll admit its abit audacious. My apologies... Breaking news! I'm on to researching drivers and crossovers for a do-it-yourself. I'll keep everyone posted as to findings. Its not going to be cheap say around $6K/pr.
The speaker for the 21st century is going to be ATC. They were founded as a driver company and now in 60% of the world's recording studios. What makes their Mid-Range so Unreal and amazing is that they use a Soft-Dome Midrange. It is made out of a FABRIC and kept in it's 1/2 sphere shape though some weird sticky goo. Rumor has it that PMC (Bryston's Pro Speaker Line) has been trying to copy this design for years without success.

They also internally bi and tri-amp each of their active speakers with Active Crossovers instead of Passive Crossovers. Their amps have flattened wire as well to improve it's performance with a much tighter wind. Why more speakers aren't INTERNALLY amp'd, I don't understand.

Truly the best Mid-range and speaker system in the world.
Check them out at www.atc.gb.net!
Mr. Hager thanks a bunch for your imput. I've done alittle research and seems this ATC is a very fine speaker. AS FOR ME this would probably be one of the very few traditional cone speaker i would consider buying. However they are large and expensive. This thread would have made little sense a few ,say 3 or 4 yrs ago. But now with the spectacular new technology in CDP's and power supply , the speaker is the next challenge for engineers...While researching speaker drivers i came across a hightech web site for disscussions on speakers. WAY over my intelligence. But its facinating to read the posts between these hightech audiophiles. The Madison speaker parts site also shows a speaker designed by a Engineer (a DOCTOR) which has dual SEAS woofers 8 inch hightech and a supertech tweet/mid sells for like $1600. This as well is very interesting AND VERY beautiful speaker to consider.
Woofer: SEAS W18EX001 CABASSE Tweeters: PHILIPS RT8P (isodynamic=ribbon-like) CABASSE TC21(they call it their "HOLY GRAIL" $600! EACH!!) SEAS T25CF002 MOREL MDT33 RAVEN1 RAVEN2 RAVEN3( the 3 sells for $1650! EACH!!) ADT tweeter. Now this is what i'm talking about. The above are SUPERIOR products. Some very expensive! These to me are 21st century drivers. With further research will list more later.
THE 21ST century speaker has arrived...but you can not ...i repeat can not walk in your local hi-fi shop and get one...my diligent hours of research has paid off...comercial speakers produce just that "comercial sound"...and believe the reviews if you want...have a nice day
How about this for a 21st century speaker. A full range plasma point source driver!
TWL i am trying to take in all the posts on your fine thread...seems no one wants to pick a fight over their "beloved" speaker...even though this thread did not receive even half the attention that your's received...maybe mine was a prelude...you put the question in a way that demanded attention..the full range plasma i am not familiar with ? the name?...and most important how much?...i posted on your thgread about the NEW HIGH TECH DRIVERS, but was totally ignored...what i need is some opinions on the sound of the THIEL and CABASSE, both labs make models from $4K to $13K...when we go into this price range i could have a kit designed that would easily out perform...and for half the price...THIEL's web page says "Attractive,Affordable, Awesome", and alot other funny things..so statements like that put doubts in my mind even before i hear them...oh, i see that statement is taken from the "not tell it like it is" hearing aid folks
Tweekerman, I am sorry if I ignored your post on the other thread, no disrespect meant. I have read about the Ravens and others you mentioned, but have not personally heard them. The Ravens may be the future, or the German Physic wave bending transducer, or the plasma tweeter(no full range yet, that I know of), or the Morel driver(discontinued), or the Sound Labs type of E-stat panels, or even a new generation Lowther type single driver which almost does it all, except for a small upper midrange peak and a bit bass shy. I would state that my prefence is some kind of full range single driver(cone,panel,ribbon,plasma,whatever) that really handles the entire audio spectrum, and does so in a point source fashion, presents a stable load, has minimal inherent phase shift and breakup modes, is very fast and efficient,and has no intervening circuitry between amp and speaker. And, of course, it has to play music. A friend once said to me,"I can eliminate all forms of audible distortion. Just turn the system off!" So it must be musical, technology is just a means to an end. There is alot of room for improvement in speaker systems and it will be interesting to see what may come in the future. Regarding your other point about building your own speaker system and saving money, I think it is a great idea and it can be done. I have done so and am very happy with my results. Remember, it is a learning process and very unlikely that your first one will be your best. But you will eventually get to the place where you won't want to buy a manufactured speaker system because you can make an equal or better one yourself for alot less. Unless they have a very complicated proprietary design that is impractical to make yourself. Great thread.
After a quick trip around the web, I found only tweeters using the plasma technology. Mfrs. include Accapella, Magnat, Corona, and a DIY page for a plasma tweeter by Ulrich Hauptmann in Holland. They all use a flame/ionization technique which results in an AM sound transmission. Commonly, a horn is coupled to increase sensitivity. Primarily used for 4kHz and above. Tube electronics are used to regulate/modulate the flame. Advantages are stated to be coherence, imaging, natural tonality. The only price I could find was the Accapella Horn Loaded Plasma Tweeter at $2600 each. Sounds like a really neat technology to me, but possibly a little dangerous. I guess we'd have to start up a new thread about whether we would then need pure-silver litz braided propane gas lines for the tweeter.
As a good listening room does not allow for balanced distribution of sound from multi channel direct, bi or di radiating speakers. I believe that single omni-directional drivers with digital room correction will permit suround sound to actually work.
full range MANGER driver>>can someone give me some info and even better a solid review on this interesting driver
thanks alot for the web address...to me this manger looks like a partial answer in an attempt to match at least some of the SOUND LABS highly praised qualities...of course on a much smaller scale ..which suits me fine ..cause i do not want to be overwhelmed by any speaker ...no i prefer dynamics over a big sound stage...yes i know this goes against the likes of the majority... every time i go to an audio club meeting the volume is way over the level i prefer
THE MANGER USA LABS offer 3 models single 8 scanspeak + 1 fullrange ($6K) dual 8's + 3 fullrange ($12K) dual 10's + 3 fullrange ($14K)...hummm...interesting...way out my range ...BUT there is another option...
MANGER seems to be a possible alternative to the SL's.. this to me is a big step on the way to the 21ST century speaker..the ONLY thing holding this speaker back as taking top place as THE 21ST century speaker is its price tag..but like i say there is another option.. FOCAL 8W5411 or FOCAL 10 + single MANGER
I think the Manger design looks great, in theory. Haven't heard it, but would love to. From what I see on the website, the best bet would be a Manger driver about 2 inches larger in diameter, so it would get down into a reasonable bass range(40Hz). Since it extends to 35kHz on the top end, this would be just about a do-it-all single driver system. As long as we're dreaming, let's go for the 20Hz-35kHz version, and get it all. It would be nice if they made the driver available separately, so we could experiment with our own low end tunings. I know it would be ungodly expensive, but still cheaper than their cheapest monitor at $5600. I would love to T-line a pair of these things, just to see what I could get out of them, running single. The response curve looks pretty flat all the way down to 60Hz, so there may be possibilities. Can't afford them though.
They do sell the driver separately, it is around $800 each as I recall. It is an interesting concept, and excellent in the sense of having a nearly-full-range single driver, but it is still plagued by the same problem that nearly all diaphragms have-- resonant breakup modes in the diaphragm, which are impossible to eliminate and difficult to control. So it is not a panacea, but is a high-quality driver nonetheless.
TWL to purchase the separate MANGER driver or kit go to g-brash@pacbell.net, GARY BRASHEAR is the USA dealer for MANGER or e-speakers.com..this is truly a very unique driver...no its not THE ultimate speaker but damn near comes close..and in my opinion MANGER is a good match for the SL's...
I wonder if more extended versions of the drivers (Walsh,DDD) used in the OHM and German Physics speakers would be more promising? If it weren't for the space needed for driver intergration perhaps digital cross overs with the inherent steep slopes but with out the time and phase anomalies that usually follows steep slopes might help these new drivers.
take a close look at the entire manger web page...the manger does not need any help it does it all...music is 90% midrange correct...and every 2 way design falls short in the lower mids, the midwoofer and the tweet never quite picks up where the other leaves off..and the 3 way design breaks up the source signal with an even more complex xover...i'm glad someone posted a comment on single source speakers, its at that point my research led me to manger 80hz up
Tweekerman, I agree with every point you brought up. Lobing effects and the space required for driver integration are problematic. I still think the manger will still need supporting drivers and may not have as desirable dispersion characteristics as some of the alternate single source drivers. At the sake of being redundant I am hoping that (untill the ideal driver comes to being) digital cross overs fullfill thier promise.
digital xovers should offer drivers their full potential..i hope thats in the near future..the MANGER is the ideal single source driver..all you need to do is add a FOCAL 10 or 11 inch or SCANSPEAK 10 inch woofer..i can not imagine a better set up for "any" amount of money than a FOCAL 11WX + MANGER..."is the ideal" because this driver delivers 90% of the frequencies with a fidelity like no other....this driver may not offer the "thrills and chills" of the new tech ribbons but are these ribbons revealing with true fidelity or with a tad of exaggeration?
Tweekerman, I am saving up to get a set of manger drivers. I plan to try different low end extension techniques, to see how low it can actually go, with help. If you look at the response chart, it seems to go to 60Hz at the same relative db as it has in the midrange, with a small rise at the midbass area. The fly in the ointment is the 88Hz resonant freq., but I have a trick or two up my sleeve for that. My goal would be to get 40Hz out of it, before any significant rolloff. This way, even if it is 12db down at 20Hz, you are still only 6db down at 30Hz and that's ok with me. It may take awhile to save up the cash,though.
As impressive as the Manger appears I am still not convinced that a Walsh type driver wouldn't be a better starting point to developing a perfect driver. The manger appears to be able to radiate either horizontaly or verticaly, but not both. A Walsh type driver which can lend itself to more seperation from its baffle appears to be able to be a true omni-directional driver(simultaneously horizontial and verticaly). As such it would be more practical in a surround sound system where the differences from side wall and rear wall would be negated. It would free the listener from a static position. Allow more individuals a larger slice of the "sweet" spot. Have more commercial applications in amplified concerts,theatre events, dance music and even (dare I say it ) muzak.
Twl i know very little on the tech side of speakers..you may however want to e-mail someone your questions about the potential of the manger..i've heard the driver only works in a woofer set up..i have a choice of 2 FOCAL woofers with the manger..
i need more time to evaluate the MANGER...ran into a few opponents>>>i'll post ASAP.. tweek out
Speakers were developed in the 20th century. All the technologies. Looking ahead more than a few months to the next greatest (and most expensive) speaker kind of minimizes how long a century is and how much development can happen in such a time period.

Having said all that my guess is that 'speakers' by the end of this century will be one long device that you hang around a space - the main consumer requirement being ease of use (followed, hopefully, by sound quality). The source equipment will detect the format (length and shape) of the speaker and present a full surround sound picture of the music. The presented sound can be dynamically tested by the source equipment and equalized as necessary. From this you'll detect that I believe 'stereo' is old (almost as old as mono) as is 5.1, 7.1, 10.2, 17.6 or whatever. We'll have true surround and the media will present a picture of the soundstage rather than discrete sound channels.

Main problem I can see with this is how a user-friendly flexible long panel will be able to push enough air to create low frequencies, and be mounted stiffly enough to present a static presentation of sound. But that's not my problem - over to the engineers. I've got to start saving for all this new technology. And I don't even have SACD or DVD-A yet.
the folks that are following this thread are the lucky folks..i found them!! ..yep..the drivers that i consider to be 21st century drivers are SKAANING SCANSPEAK SEAS FOCAL VINASTON EXPOLINEAR(ribbons) ESg(ribbons) RAVEN (ribbons) PHILIPS (ribbons),,these are the drivers you want in your cabinets..most of these are not cheap..but then how much do you pay for speakers at your local "hifi" shop???..you see what you are actually paying for in essence are the ads of the labs and the nice markup at your friendly local shop..i want to pay for quality drivers and quality xovers..now if you log onto http://www.kochaudio.de/ you'll find some of these drivers..check out my favorites the PHILIPS RT series of ribbons..look at the RSQSP/11 (like $800each!!)as well take a look at possibly the best sounding speaker for large rooms the VINASTON 890MK11..as for their drivers i like the DR45N tweet AL130/A AL170/A MHT12 G25HETL16H TL300..here's my pick..2 way..lets go with the SKAANING 10 incher + PHILIPS RSQSP/11..and for 3 way ..hummm..tough choice..lets again go SKAAN 10 + VINASTON DR45N + ESg3..for xovers lets go with the MARCHAND XM126..now that's a 21st century speaker
I throw everyone a curveball, or nearly everyone.... I vote that the speaker for the 21st century will be the successful development of the hypersonic speaker. Prototypes exist and work, but not to the performance needed. When the science figures it out, it should theoretically be the best speakers available.... It is based on the physics that when 2 musical frequencies are played, each tone is played, as well as the sum and difference of the two tones. Therefore, if we have 1 speaker playing at say 100,000 Hz, we'll never hear it. If we have a second playing at 100,002-120,000Hz Range, the additive sound is also silent to the human ear, but the difference should give one a 2-20,000Hz range.

The difficulty w/ most drivers is that they need to play from 20-20,000Hz, or a span of 100,000% of minimum frequency. Entirely too much to handle w/ 1 driver. If we now make a driver that plays from 100,002-120,000Hz, we only need to make a driver capable of 20% over minimum frequency... The should be MUCH easier to therefore accomplish the entire audible frequency range w/ 1 pair of drivers....

Cheers all.
Maybe i am one of only a few who has never heard of that design, but it sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing.
hell I never thought I would be listening to tube and high efficancy speakers in 2002 .Have owned dynamics planars ribbons and electrostatics.But there is a magic to a set amp and a horn speaker that must be experanced in your home to be beleaved.try it before you diss it