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Are Klipsch , JBL, Altec and other horn speakers harsh sounding? (1 Viewer)

James W. Johnson

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Are Klipsch , JBL, Altec and other horn speakers harsh sounding?

My next speaker to try out was going to be a horn speaker of some kind probably an old pair of Klipsch (La Sacala)or an Altec or JBL. I have heard some of the Klipsh line but not in my home so I really don't know what they sound like

after listening to them for hours.

After my experience with the JBL S312s I am

now wondering if this is what a horn speaker will

be like. The S312s are very detailed , bright sounding and fatiguing. Very fun to listen to for an album, after that my ears cannot take much more.

Does anyone here own some old Altec A7s or vintage Klipsch speakers and listen to them for 3 or 4 hours at a time?
 

Bill Leber

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It all depends on your source and amplification. Horns are very detailed, as you pointed out, and revealing. They are also very efficient so you need amplification that sounds good in the first couple watts. You'll find horn aficionados are also usually fans of tube amps, particularly SETs.
 

Harold_C

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Are Klipsch , JBL, Altec and other horn speakers harsh sounding?
They can be.

With amplifier power as cheap as it is today, horns would probably not be my first choice in a normal sized living room.

I would consider horns when I had a situation that was going to be difficult to achieve Dolby reference playback levels -- a large room, etc.
 

Mike Strassburg

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I recently converted my HT from a JBL tower set-up to an array of Klipsch Legends. I also use this system for music listening.

The horns are VERY revealing, not only of your electronics, but of the recording. I like to listen VERY LOUD and have only had a few times when the horns were overly bright.

You always have the option of using the treble setting to turn it down a notch or try some of the mods available for most Klipsch speakers.

Personally I love my horns. Listening to my JBL's which are now serving duty in the bedroom they just seem flat unless really cranked up. The horns sound great even at low volumes, and even better when cranked up. Loud and clean!

JMHO....Mike
 

Saurav

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Not at all. However, it's very important that you drive them with the right electronics. I would almost certainly try tubes with horn speakers. With 'average' SS electronics, horns may end up sounding harsh. High quality SS should be able to drive horns just as well as tubes, but IMO that kind of pairing doesn't make sense.
You seem to be on a bit of a speaker auditioning trip. May I suggest this combination:
ASL Waves - 8W tube monoblocks, available for around $200/pr from many places
Any high efficiency speaker, not just restricted to horns - the Adire HE10.1 is a good choice. $300 for the kit, and the cabinets seem really simple, so shouldn't cost much to get someone to build them
That's probably around the MSRP of the S312s. That might change some ideas about what is possible for how much money :) And you're the DIY kind too, so there are some easy mods available for the Waves which would improve them quite a bit.
Does anyone here own some old Altec A7s or vintage Klipsch speakers and listen to them for 3 or 4 hours at a time?
I listened to Oris horns at someone's place - huge speakers, 108dB efficient, being driven by 0.5W of power. That was flat out the most amazing system I've heard in my life. I could listen to it all day long, there was no harshness at all, just incredible power and dynamics.
 

Saurav

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With amplifier power as cheap as it is today, horns would probably not be my first choice in a normal sized living room.
I used to feel that way too. However, these days my opinions have changed. All the systems I have heard with high efficiency speakers being driven by low powered amps have been better than the other way around - inefficient speakers being driven by brute force. IMO, you use horns not because you don't have power, but because you want to use a low powered amplifier. I'm not totally sure what causes this, but there is something about small/light/nimble amplifiers driving efficient speakers that just sounds more musical and engaging.
If anyone's interested, try this link: http://www.soundconsultant.com/articles.html I don't agree 100% with everything in there, but IMO it's a pretty good article overall.
 

Ron Shaw

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A good alternative to a tube amp is a nice class A amplifier. All the tube virtues without the hassel of tubes. Try the DIY amp here at Nelson Pass's site: http://www.passdiy.com/projects/zenlite2.htm
P.S. I like and use tubes myself, but the cost of retubing, and the difficulty in getting good output transformers makes me reluctant to recommend tubes to people these days. This little 10 watt class A is perfect for those who like horns (I do!). Build a couple and biamp!
 

Saurav

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P.S. I like and use tubes myself, but the cost of retubing, and the difficulty in getting good output transformers makes me reluctant to recommend tubes to people these days.
Have you looked at some of ASL's recent offerings? They're making products that are almost plug-and-play for someone who has no prior experience with tubes. Readily available tubes which aren't driven too hard (someone's reported a 20 year lifespan with similar tubed in a similar design), self-biasing circuits, impedance and sensitivity figures which match SS equipment, and so on. The Wave that I mentioned earlier, for instance - other than the power output issue, it could drop right into any 'normal' SS equipment chain - 0.5V input sensitivity, 100K input impedance. And if you're running high sensitivity speakers (the Adire HE10.1 I mentioned is around 96dB, and it's a normal dynamic speaker, not horn-loaded), 8W of power is more than enough. Heck, I'm running 88dB speakers with those amps. All that for $200 a pair, and it's not a 'toy' amp, it sounds really good.
I'll completely agree with one of your points - for DIY, SS is much easier than tubes. And much lower voltages too.
I understand what you're trying to say about tubes in general, but there are some companies and products that are trying out new ideas. On a forum like this, most people are HT oriented and so they have different requirements. However, if I see someone exploring outside the well-trodded boundaries, I like to give them an idea of what options are available. Not to sound pompous or anything :) but I've been down this exact same road a few months ago. A couple of years ago, all I had was my girlfriend's boombox, so I've learnt a bit in the last year and a half. If I'd known back then what I know now, that would have been 2 more years of my life spent really enjoying music.
Tubes aren't all that daunting, that's all I'm trying to say.
 

James W. Johnson

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IMO, you use horns not because you don't have power, but because you want to use a low powered amplifier.
>>>>>>>
Yes it seems most of the high efficiency guys at Audio Asylum are doing this, but alot of people use high powered SS amps with them as well.
Wayne at Pi speakers uses some Crown amps if I am not mistaken.
I like using a couple of watts out of a huge amp, never really tapping into its performance.
I had 90% of the parts to build a set of Four Pis Pros with all JBL drivers but at the last minute I
changed my mind and sold all the parts I had.
This is one project that I might get back on track with.
I noticed Pi speakers now has kits for their speakers, $707 ea for the 4 Pi pros is a really good price considering the drivers alone are about $600.
A good alternative to a tube amp is a nice class A amplifier. All the tube virtues without the hassel of tubes. Try the DIY amp here at Nelson Pass's site: http://www.passdiy.com/projects/zenlite2.htm
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
Thanks I will look into this!
 

Ron Shaw

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Ron, what is the cost of this Zen-lightenment kit?
Is it a kit? I don't know if it is, but the parts should be easily available. Try Digi-Key http://www.digikey.com/DigiHome.html or Mouser http://www.mouser.com/ for sources. Both are good for small quantities, and are fast in delivery.
Saurav, I didn't intent to discourage anyone from using tubes, but as time goes by, tubes become more of a problem, and for those not willing to deal with that, at least there is a good, simple and cheap alternative that gives the same virtues we like with tubes.
James, it is true that some people like to use higher powered amps with high efficiency speakers, but in my opinion, they aren't getting the most out of their system. That is because typical SS amps (class AB) go from class A operation to class AB operation at about 1 watt. There is more distortion produced here than anywhere else short of clipping. This isn't forgiving harmonic distortion, either. This is crossover distortion (from class A to AB). Unfortunately, for horn lovers like myself, 1 watt is typical listening levels. When I first got into horns (I was using Altec 511B/802D midrange horns, EV T35 tweeter), I was using a home built 80W SS amp (I was bi-amping). It had nice, low distortion, and I adjusted bias to eliminate all visible crossover distortion using a scope. It sounded gooood. I was in heaven. Then, a friend (a tube lover), loaned me an old vintage Dynaco ST70 (35W/Ch tube amp)to give it a try. I humored him, and hooked it up in place of my high freq. SS amp. I immediately became a tube convert. It sounded so much smoother and liquid. Sounds had more dimension. From then on, its only tubes or class A SS for mid/high end horn systems for me. I still prefer SS for bass. They have higher damping factors which sound tighter. I usually don't run horn bass, as the size gets overwhelming, but I do use high efficiency woofers in a good bass reflex cabinet. Still, you are putting out probably up to 10 watts or so for the bass, so SS is ok there.
 

Saurav

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I still prefer SS for bass. They have higher damping factors which sound tighter.
Our ideas seem to match quite a bit :) I'd love to have big bass horns, maybe someday :) If you don't mind sharing, what do you have in your system, all the way from the source to the speakers?
P.S. I love the look of that lamp with 4 lightbulbs on top :) I thought that was a brilliant idea, using a lightbulb.
 

Ron Shaw

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Yes, the lightbulbs look kinda neat, and give a similar glow of tube filaments. Gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Using a lightbulb as a constant current source is ingeneous, and the first example I ever saw of it was in the old HP 200C audio oscillator (sine wave generator) from the 1940's or so.

Also, the Adire HE10 can be build for less. The Eminence Beta-10CX driver is $44.68 each from Martin Sound, and the Eminence APT50 HF driver is $18.85. The Adire site mentions that the HF driver is thier own unit, but the picture they show is the APT50. Eminence makes the coaxial low frequency unit in 8, 10, 12 and 15" sizes. The 8" is $42.05 from Martin. The 8" is rated at 96db/w, and the 10, 12 and 15 are rated at 97db.
 

Saurav

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Hm, that's interesting, I never thought about sourcing the parts individually. How easy/hard is it to get the coaxial drivers mounted? Also, I assume Adire performs some tests to ensure they meet their claimed time alignment specs? I would think that that would be important for overall coherency... how easy/hard is it to do that by hand?

Edit: Also, you'd have to design your own crossover too, right?
 

Ron Shaw

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The bass drivers are made for the coaxially mounted HF unit, and have a standard 1 3/8 x 18 thread. To use the Eminence APT50 HF driver, you also need the APT3 adapter, which is a female to male adapter ($3.72 from Martin). The picture Adire shows also shows this mounted to the HF driver, so it seems they are just using stock Eminence parts (at least physically). You could probably use almost any compression driver that has 1 3/8 x 18 mounting (lots to choose from). You can check out info on these units at the Eminence site here: http://www.eminence.com/. The coax bass units are found under 'Speakers', and are in the Beta line. The HF unit is under 'Eminence HF'. The Martin Sound website is currently down and being revamped for the new catalog, so you cant get any info there right now, but here is Martins phone number: 1-800-321-6303, or in Ohio, 1-440-2286.
You would need to come up with a crossover, but this is fairly straightforward stuff these days (I recommend bi-amping, and doing it electronically). The HF driver is rated at 105db/w, so you dont need much power there. If you do a passive crossover, you will also need an 'L' pad to turn down the HF unit to match the LF unit. As typical with high efficiency low frequency units, you wont get deep bass from these drivers. Using the parameters from the Eminence site gives
an F3 of about 62 Hz in a 1.5 ft3 box tuned to 53 Hz for a max flat alignment. You will probably want to augument the bass.
 

Saurav

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I have a subwoofer with its plate amp. I've assembled a speaker from a kit once, but haven't tried anything approaching designing a crossover. This looks like a reasonably easy place to start, should I decide to try my hand at that.

Thanks for the info, I'll be filing all this away for a rainy day.
 

James W. Johnson

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If Adire says the HF driver is their own then it is their own, Eminence builds all or most of Adire' drivers so
it is quite reasonable that if Adire wanted a few things changed on that driver Eminence would probably do it.
Ron you make designing a passive crossover sound so easy,
Adire posts the HE 10.1 crossover schematics on their website and its a little more that what you describe.
Adire's MCD:
http://adireaudio.com/tech_papers/mcd_crossovers.htm
Biamping would be the best way to go if you were going to buy stock Eminence parts.
 

James W. Johnson

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Also the HE-10.1 comes with everything including the vents,wire, t-nuts , input cup and probably very high quality crossover parts from Solen.

If you biamped them you might save a few bucks but I doubt you could build them with a passive crossover yourself for much less than $299 using the same quality crossover parts

and even if you could they would'nt sound as good unless you are an expert speaker designer or something.
 

Saurav

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and even if you could they would'nt sound as good unless you are an expert speaker designer or something.
Agreed. All I was saying was, this might be a simpler platform than others to try your hand at designing your own crossover. I would think that the alignment of the drivers would reduce some of the phase/time complexity.
 

Ron Shaw

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Actually, I didnt describe a crossover. I just said that building one was fairly straigntforward. Crossovers arent the great mystery many seem to think. Looking at the schematic on the Adire site, I added up the cost for the crossover using top quality parts, and it came to $24.28 for 1 speaker. This was from Martin sound. You can also get the parts from Madisound, or your favorite vendor. You could just copy that crossover if you wanted to do it passively. Doing it electronically and bi-amping would make things simpler from a crossover viewpoint, and have the added benifits that bi-amping gives, as well.

Throw in a couple of bucks for a port (I usually make mine from wood) and a few more bucks for misc. hardware, and thats about all you need.

It may be true that Eminence builds special drivers for Adire. They do that alot. The stock unit from Eminence is no slouch, and it has a very smooth curve. Im sure it would satisfy most people.
 

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