Dynamic, Magneplanar, and Electromagnetic: picking one

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by SteveEdwards, Dec 23, 2001.

  1. SteveEdwards

    SteveEdwards Agent

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    This thread is intended to produce interesting and insightful commentary. I'm just curious of others' insightful opinions on this site; I am not looking to declare any winners or losers. Now then...

    Can it be said that either dynamic speakers, magneplanar speakers, or electrostatic speakers are the superior design? I think not, or we'd see one design prevail over all others. As evident by the huge diversity of high-end loudspeakers out there, this is not true.

    Yet, of the speakers I've heard, I'd have to admit that I favor the latter two designs.

    I myself own fine two-way dynamic speakers built from extremely high-end Scanspeak drivers- heralded as some of the best dynamic drivers around. And while the speakers are great for loud dynamic soundtracks, they simply do not have the presense that magnepan or martin-logan speakers, with their overwhelming sizes and resulting enveloping sounds, have.

    Perhaps bipolar dynamic speakers, of which few I've listened to, can help produce a larger sound. Larger drivers do this at the expense of driver quickness- something magneplanar and electrostatics do not sacrifice. Dynamic drivers do, however, seem to play louder cleaner without compression.

    I must add that I am infuriated with the notion of having to sit in a "sweet spot" to enjoy speakers. I never, ever sit still while listening to music. Similarly, I always watch movies with a crowd. Perhaps this is a reason why I crave a big sound.

    The cons of each design I mentioned may be resolved in a line-array design, right? I've never had the pleasure of hearing one.

    Besides, though they produce great sound, huge speakers are usually ugly when placed in a living room :)

    Bottom line: can a full band's sound really be reproduced through a 1" dome tweeter and a 6 1/2" mid/woofer? I own quite fine dynamic speakers, and I'd say no.

    Comments are appreciated.
     
  2. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    The Totem Mani 2 is an excellent full range small dynamic speaker, but there is no free lunch. They have very low sensitivity while at the same time, you can't push them too hard to get significant bass. Oh, they also cost $4000.

    Every design has strengths and weaknesses. Large planar speakers are harder to place properly, usually have problems integrating a woofer with the panel, are expensive and can be hard to drive.

    On the other hand, the full size image they project and the more 3 dimentional image are real nice. The only way to know which speakers are best for any individual is to try them in YOUR home.

    Dynamics comprise about 95% of the market because they are cheap. If you can afford planars, Maggies are less expensive than 'stats.
     
  3. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    All speaker designs have inherint flaws and that includes but

    is not limited to Electrostatic (EL) and Planar speakers.

    With Planar and EL's the sound stage is wide but narrow. To

    further elaborate on that, the soundfield is expansive side

    to side but nearly non existant or very limited verticaly.

    Depending on the height of your EL or Planars (the Magnepan

    SMG's for example) which are a very low slung speaker have

    a very narrow verticle sweet spot from what I have read and

    heard from owners. The same could be said for ML's too other

    than the fact that ML makes them extremly tall.

    Dynamic Acoustic Suspension speakers have (depending on

    driver arangement) very wide soundfields that can equal any

    Planar or EL but as you stated they seem to lack the "Ambiance"

    Ambiance is nothing more than reflected sound and any main

    that is Di or Bi Polar will remedy the lack of ambiance (if

    you prefer such a thing) a good dynamic acoustic suspension

    speaker to look at in this category would be something from

    Definitive Technology as they make Bi-Polar mains.

    Another drawback of EL and Planar is thier inability to

    reproduce lows, this is why ML's are a Hybrid EL incorperating

    a woofer for lows otherwise a sub *is* absolutely needed.

    There is no clear cut winner by any means.. On paper no speaker

    will ever win. But in the hearts of the owners, some love EL

    and Planar and some love dynamic acoustic suspension systems.

    I would love to try a pair of Magnepan SMG's based solely on

    thier low price, but wether or not I would love them as much

    as I love my AR9's is hard to say without doing an A-B in my

    own home.
     
  4. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Steve---You should listen to some good horn speakers, and I don't mean Klipsch, listen to some vintage Altecs or JBLs or DIY rigs using components by Altec, JBL, TAD, EV, Radian, Edgar, Sierra-Brooks etc. Good horns have the best dynamics available; the can go "0-100-0" quicker than any other type of speaker. They play very loud with with far less strain than other types of speakers and have excellent clarity and very low distortion. A DIY horny can pick most any dispersion pattern he wants as horns control directivity and are available in many patterns, from 40 degrees horizontal up to 130 degrees horizontal; most have 60 degree vertical patterns. And you can also use horns as dipoles, a buddy of mine has DIY dipole horn rig using EV drivers and homemade tractrix horns. IMO horns combine the clarity of eleltrostats with hair-trigger dynamics and vast volume capabilities, far greater than those of ESs or planar electrodynamics. They are also very efficient, many horn rigs are 105db+ 1w1m. This greatly eases the work of the amplifeir and lets you pick amps purely by their sonic qualities without reference to how much power they put out. Now good horns aren't easy to hear, horns are kind of an "underground" thing and it's hard to hear them unless you know some hornies and can plug into the network. But they're out there. A basic horn rig using a high quality, high efficiency, direct-radiating 15" woofer crossed at 500hz to a compression driver and horn is easy to build and parts are easy to find. Look at my site for more info and lots of links if interested.
     
  5. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    I have not heard a good horn system, although what I've heard from those in whom I trust mirrors Tom's thoughts.

    As it stands, the only commercial speakers I'd consider buying would be Magnepans.
     
  6. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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  7. SteveEdwards

    SteveEdwards Agent

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    I should have mentioned, I also own a pair of horn speakers. I do some DJing as a hobby, and while my speakers are definately not anything I'd enjoy listening to music from, I can definately appreciate their sound. It's the big sound I like. Yet, I haven't quite found a 15" woofer that I find enjoyable. I use Eminence Kappa 15's- certainly not the greatest out there (though quite sufficient for my purposes I might note). Would it make sense to take a horn and pair it with an array of smaller woofers? And if so, then why hasn't any company done this? I know Klipsch is the exception, but I've never been terribly impressed with their stuff.
     
  8. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    There is a drawback to horns too... They are hideously ugly!
    I should say that looks are as subjective as sound but some
    of the "High End" Horns I have seen make me want to toss my
    lunch. And then on top of that they paint them candy apple
    red and blue and yellow and chrome and *ugg*
    To each his or her own, I don't even like the way nOrh's
    look! Nor B&W Nauts! I like traditional looking speakers
    I guess.. [​IMG]
    I have to say that choosing speakers is probably THE hardest
    part of any system. The electronics choices seem to pale in
    comparison to all of the diffrent styles and designs of
    speaker systems available to us, and that is definataly a
    good thing..
    I saw a pair of towers from a UK Company called Cassabe that
    I find to be absolutely gorgeous (they are not traditional
    looking at all) but at 20K a pair I will pass [​IMG]
     
  9. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Steve---Horns have been used with smaller woofers, Altec made a monitor and a home speaker that used 2-12s per cabinet. There's no reason an array of even smaller woofers wouldn't match with a horn top-end if enough were used. What hurt horns commercially as domestic speakers was the size and cost; cabinets tend to be very large and the drivers are very expensive compared to normal hi-fi drivers. A good mid-high driver such as the JBL 2426 costs $300 when discounted, compare this to the cost of cone mids and dome tweeters which are much cheaper. And that 2426 still needs a horn, more cost. And 15" woofers with massive magnets, 4" edgewound voicecoils and precision build are more expensive than small hi-fi woofers. So most speakermakers have turned to cheaper drivers and small cabinets, afterall they can still get capable performence that way, just not what I consider the best. And audiophile tastes and tastemakers changed too and horns became passe (though that never bothered many horn enthusiasts)but they're making a comeback as more people tire of the constricted dynamics of normal speakers. Also those flea-power SET tube amps are very trendy and horns are the only speakers that can get louder than a clock radio with them so some people are getting into horns coming from that direction. The Eminence you use is a good driver but not in the same ballpark as 15s like Altec 416s and 515s or various JBLs. No doubt you could "massage" or tweak your DJ speakers to sound better. On the other hand some people don't like horns in any case, it's all subjective.
     
  10. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    A couple of notes to add re: electrostats. To say that all electrostats still cannot reproduce enough bass is not entirely accurate. To say that a sub is a must however, is simply not correct. Have you spent any time listenting to the newer MartinLogan Ascents, Odyssey or Prodigy line...? The CLS line is an obvious exception here for obvious reasons.... It is a stigma that really is no longer valid.

    As for the soundstage, sure the width or spaciousness is a factor, perhaps even a determining factor. That is the beauty of ESL speakers. Sure, placement might be a bit more tedious, but once proper placement is determined, they're hard to beat. As for ESL's being "vertically" challenged, I don't know, I still spend much of my listening time whilst seated. I just find that sitting on a 6' ladder isn't nearly as enjoyable.... not sure how that's valid.

    There is probably not a HT topic more subjective than those of speakers. But if we're going to be critical, lets be accurate.

    Regards,

    Herb.
     
  11. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Herb,
    The MLs you cited: Ascent, Odyssey, Prodigy are all hybrids.
    The CLS-IIz is a full range ESL.
    No question ESLs can do bass, but the ones with that capability are hideously expensive. Best I've heard from an ESL is undoubtedly the Sound Lab Ultimate 1, at over US$20K it ain't a bargain [​IMG]
    The old Apogees did damned good bass, but sadly they aren't in business anymore.
    Regards,
     
  12. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    Herb,

    Try not to call people out saying thier posts are inaccurate

    when yours is the post that shows inacuracies. As John noted

    all are Hybrids with exception to the CLSIIz.

    And even with a very pricey full range ELS what kind of low

    end figures are we looking at? 32Hz? Are there ANY ELS's

    capeable of 18Hz?

    As for verticle sound stage what I said is true. The only

    way around this is by manufacturing the ELS to be very tall

    so that even when standing you are still within the sound

    stage. But not all are as tall as others. Particularly with

    the Maggie SMG Planar's that have a somewhat small horizontal

    footprint they do have to be meticulously placed or elevated.

    Not everyone sits still whilst they listen to music.

    Every speaker has a flaw, every car has a flaw, every human

    has a flaw. This is life and that is just the way life goes.

    We make decisions based on what sounds good to our own ears.

    We know that no speaker is "perfect" and that's acceptable.

    You choose what you like.
     
  13. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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  14. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Herb,

    The MLs aren't an ESL as far as bass reproduction goes. They are dynamics. The ESL panel kicks in from 250Hz on up (depending on model).

    Can the newer MLs do bass? In the demos I've heard, sure. Are there ESL drivers doing so? Nope.

    Regards,
     
  15. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    Right (or Write) on John! [​IMG]
     
  16. Jason Watson

    Jason Watson Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow, what a great thread! Just when I thought the discussions did not run as deep over here, I find this. Dont get me wrong, I love this place, but as my tastes and system have evolved, I find myself looking at other sites more than before.
    I have recently made the switch from dynamic speakers to planers. I found myself loving the Maggie sound so much I completely jumped over to an all Magnepan system. Would I ever go back? Possibly so. But I see myself moving up the Magnepan line first, to 3.6s. I am sure there are many, more musical, dynamic speakers than my former NHTs.But at the price point,the Magnepans were hard to better. Tastes are subjective however, and results may vary[​IMG]
    Jason
     
  17. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    John/Brett:

    OK, time to step back for a moment and clear up a couple of "Clintonisms". First off, yes indeed they are hybrids. If you look at my original post (post #10), I thought I made it pretty clear by stating that the CLS was the "obvious" exception. I'd like to think that my use of the word obvious, was "obvious".... Anyone remotely familiar with the ML line will know (hopefully) what I was referring to. OK, lets go back to Steve's original post (paragraph #4, specifically) whereby he is soliciting discussion and refers to the MartinLogan. There is no specificity on ESL, hybrid etc etc, just the brand name. I was simply adding my thoughts regarding ESL speakers (or if you prefer the use ESL "hybrids"), that they are indeed, capable of reproducing good bass, period. As for qualifiers on bargains, he doesn't indicate he is looking for a deal or bang for buck etc.

    As for the "vertical soundstage", I agree that not everyone sits while listening to music (or watching HT, for that matter). But, I do think they do while listening critically. We all have to get up to answer a phone, fetch a drink or turn over the meatloaf, but I'm not very critical of what my system sounds like while I'm in the kitchen with the oven door propped open. Nor am I any less critical if I'm on a 6' ladder changing a pot light in the kitchen. Sure the system is going to sound different, but to be critical of it under these circumstances is ridiculous.

    Lastly, as for stats on speakers, my opinion there is that I save the "stats" for Bob Costas and Joe Morgan. IMO stats don't carry much weight when it comes to speakers. I'd like to think we are buying speakers that sound good to us and our ears -- our own personal preference, if you will. To use stats as a peripheral guideline is one thing, to condemn a product based on them, is another story.

    Regards,

    Herb.
     
  18. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Herb,

    I make my living being very precise on technical issues, so I wanted to be clear what was going on with the MLs in question.

    Another name that doesn't get mentioned often in HT circles are the Inner Sound Isis and Eros, probably because (the last I knew) they weren't manufacturing a Center Channel (arrrrgggh!).

    This is another hybrid ESL, with the panel kicking in at 1kHz if memory serves me correctly.

    Regards,
     
  19. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    Herb,
    I did not have 'sexual' relations with that speaker! [​IMG]
    You know we are just ruffling feathers in good jest and
    I mean no disrespect in any of my posts. Likewise I do
    not feel I was "inacuratly" describing the ELS's what I
    said was true about Bass Response on a pure ELS Pannel.
    Even the CLSIIz will not output bass as low as a dynamic
    sub woofer designed for the task. That's not my opinion
    it is the fact at hand. This is why Hybrid ELS's exist in
    the first place.
    As I said previously, every speaker design has inherint
    flaws that require workarounds. Dynamic speakers don't have
    the Ambiance of ELS's therfore we add drivers to damn near
    every side of the mains (in Di's and Bi's) to recreate the
    same "ambiance" that the ELS and Planar's exude.
    We all have our prefences. I don't care for the way ML's
    look, and looks are as important to me as sound. I like a
    traditional Dynamic Loud Speaker, preferably a Tower with
    a D'Appolito M-T-M arangement to yeild the widest possible
    sound field, And Bi-Polar M-T-M Towers are even cooler!
    I can tell you love your Logans and that is great! That's
    why we have these choices..
    I have to say out of all the flat pannel speakers I have seen
    I like the way the Maggie SMG's in all black look. Not as
    imposing as the big brothers and not as imposing as the ML's
    and the price is right. I may buy a set down the road and
    give them a look see.. Hell if I don't like the way they
    sound it won't be hard to resell them for the 5 bills they
    cost. But from what I have read they sound phenominal for
    thier size and cost. It's definatly worth a shot.. Just for
    kicks..
    Of course I have other priorities that come first... Monoblock
    amps and a Tube Preamp are next on my Gotta Have list! [​IMG]
     
  20. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    Yes, it is difficult to get deep bass out of full-range planars (not hybrids) as the out-of-phase front and back waves are free to mingle, causing cancellation. A good sub is required, as it is with all speakers, for the deepest bass.

    I'd say that the Magnepan MMG (the SMG is not made anymore) coupled with an Adire Rava sub would be in another league from the typical AR/JBL/Polk-type fare found in the mass-market retailers. I'm using sonics as the sole criterium here, as is my wont.

    As for vertical dispersion of planars being a concern, the typical M-T-M tower is as limited vertically as a typical M-T-M center is laterally, for the same reasons of driver interaction/cancellation. I believe this was a design goal of the design (not for the center, of course, where it's an undesired consequence of placing the arrangment sideways). If vertical dispersion is paramount (I don't know an application where it would be, though), M-T-M is not really the way to go.
     

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