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wkhanna's picture
Last seen: 6 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Jul 13 2007 - 1:46pm
seamless single drivers

A question was asked recently on an audio forum: What is "better" sound to you?

I had just been listening to a friend’s system a week earlier.
In the realm of ‘great’ systems, this one has always held a V high placement on my short list of reference’ systems. This may seem counter-intuitive when one considers this rig consists of a single 3-1/2 inch paper-cone driver in each of two speaker cabinets driven by 50 year old 14 peak watt tube powered electronics.

Why would such a system consistently leave me in such high regard of its performance? It certainly is not blowing me away with its wide, huge, rumbling macro dynamics. No super tweeter with spine-tingling highs. Definitely not the throbbing, tsunami generating low end. Especially when the bottom end does not realistically go much below 60Hz even when you optimistically factor in the gain you might get from room effect placement. In fact, when you compare the hardware in this system against any of the others on my list of ‘reference’ systems you might see it as a blatant error. Or possibly the perceptions of a fool (I will allow consideration of this last possibility off-line, please).

But for me, perception is what it is all about. A subjective sense that all is right with the world; if even for just a few minutes. 

You do not always need 5-zero signal-to-noise ratio amplifiers or mass loaded, 5-driver cabinets of resonant-cancelling unobtainium that require a small fork-lift to move them, along with a perfectly timed, zero jitter DAC with its ytterbium atomic clock.

In fact, it may just be the unabashed & abridged simplicity of this flea watt system that is its most crucial characteristic. There is so little between it & the music. What is physically there is similar in economy to the Wright bros’ first flying machines. Consider the parts-count of one of their early planes to that of an Airbus A340. They both fly, most of the time, anyway. But when it comes to making heavier-than-air machines defy the laws of gravity…….one accomplishes the task in much simpler & frugal fashion.

I like to consider the use of a single driver, its practicality & the pure ‘righteousness’ of it. Like a perfectly matched key for the most precise lock. When you start adding drivers you must carefully control when one driver begins to drop off in its frequency generation & the adjacent driver begins to pick up its generation of sound. This is the crossover point. And for every driver that is included to handle just one region of the total frequency spectrum, so too must a crossover be added to facilitate a smooth transition between them. Easier said than done. And like most things, to do it right typically is not inexpensive. Many speakers also have this crossover point at frequencies that are difficult to handle. For example, the frequency range of the human voice is centered at around 1000 Hz, and covering a range from around 200 Hz to 3 KHz. Putting a crossover in this region is quite dicey & easily detected when poorly executed, weather due to price point constraint or simply poor engineering. And the more drivers you have spread across the spectrum the more crossovers required. And every time an instrument produces frequencies that must pass through the crossover transition the more likely your ear is to notice unrealistic characteristics.

This is the reason you find many V good two-way speakers. The design is simpler than three-way & full-range speakers. Some can deliver quite excellent value & performance relative to the quantity & cost of parts required ….. when they give up trying to produce the lower registers.

There are other advantages inherent to single-driver arrangements, too. Take the recent trend of coaxial drivers used in some V high-end designs. And Kef’s latest LS series utilizing their Uni-Q driver. Reducing the number drivers in a system makes good imaging & sound-staging much easier to accomplish. Again, it is matter of physics. Single drivers, being a point source, do not suffer the same level of negative influences from lobing, timing & directivity as multi-driver designs. Sometimes, simpler can be better.

But please, do not misunderstand me. I am in no way, shape or form implying flea-watt, single driver systems are ‘The’ answer to the audiophile’s quest. Such a system can in fact be quite limiting. What I am saying is, when executed correctly & fed a diet of less than complex & smaller scale acoustical & vocal repertoire they can bring to life such sound likes of which you may have never heard before.

Getting back to the original topic, it is this meager system & its ability to let the naturalness of the music & human voice just flow that never fails to amaze me. Obviously, its sweet spot is in the mids. A place where human voices & acoustical instruments spend most of their time. It was once said, “We live in the mids”. The mids account for the vast majority of what we hear as we go about our normal day-to-day routines. When a system can reproduce sounds we are most familiar with in the most natural & realistic of ways at a level where we feel as though they are genuine, that is what I call ‘Better’.

JoeE SP9
JoeE SP9's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: Oct 31 2005 - 6:02pm

That seamless soiund is exactly why I prefer full range electrostatic speakers. As used in my system, with the exception of subwoofers working only from 85Hz down, my speakers (ESL's) are full range crossover free transducers.

wkhanna's picture
Last seen: 6 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Jul 13 2007 - 1:46pm
Agreed. Based on the


Based on the refurbished Quad 63's I heard at the 2013 Capital Audiofest (reconditioned by Electrostatic Solutions of Kansas City, MO and connected with TelWire of Allentown, PA), few others can compare at an equivalent price.

Art Dudley commented on them the HERE

If only I had the room for them in my home, I would likely have a set myself for my main system, along with a set of Gradient subs.

michael green
michael green's picture
Last seen: 3 days 16 hours ago
Joined: Jan 10 2011 - 6:11pm
simple is simply better

Nice thread!

I see people going simple and getting away from the over complicated setups. The listeners I talk to say the simple systems reveal more of the recordings harmonics and balance. Sounds like your friend may have a system that the music plays, instead of a system that plays the music. I personally I'm not crazy about listening to equipment, especially when it won't get out of the way and let the music through. The tide is turning back to simple, thank God. I almost had to take up golf.

michael green


audiophile2000's picture
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: Oct 10 2012 - 9:51pm

Interesting thread. Makes sesne. I've read a few things from the speaker manufactrues and multi-drive speakers can get complicated with driver placement, interference between the drive units, crossovers. and as you scale up size the distance between the drivers/ground can also have an effect on the final sound. For all these reasons I'm not supprised a single driver speaker sounds great as it elimantes a lot of the above (especially in the mids).

commsysman's picture
Last seen: 2 days 4 hours ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am

For $599, you can buy a pair of Magnepan MMG speakers.

Putting them with a high-quality integrated amplifier will give you some very good sound; perhaps what you are looking for.

If you don't care much about low bass and just want a nice pure sound, they are very very good.

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