Which speaker technology do you prefer?

Which speaker technology do you prefer?
Dynamic/Cone drivers
47% (108 votes)
7% (16 votes)
Electrostatic/Dynamic hybrid
18% (41 votes)
7% (16 votes)
Ribbon/Dynamic hybrid
7% (17 votes)
3% (8 votes)
Horn/Dynamic hybrid
2% (5 votes)
3% (6 votes)
No preference
5% (12 votes)
Total votes: 229

There are some wildly different speaker technologies out there with one common goal: accurate reproduction of music. In your experience, which approach works best?

Bill Cooney's picture


Anonymous's picture

Gallo Acustics uses a ceramic piezo tweeter in combination with a modified Dynaudio mid/bass driver. This offers a high frequency presentation similar to electrostatics without the compromised dynamics. These are very special speakers that have recieved little attention in the pages of Stereophile.

Jeffrey Morgan's picture

Rock/pop music has always been presented to me through "boxes," even when "live" (okay, so there's been some horns here and there). In high school, the imaging HAD to be limited to watching the woofers shake back and forth! Of course, now it's different, but it's still that hefty and "balls to the wall" sound that I've never been able to get enough of. To me, THAT'S hi-fi, and most anything else, is just too lean.

Timothy Eyre's picture

Electrostatics are a pain to position and don't give thunderous bass. What you do get, though, is beautifully transparent.

Jay Green's picture

Electrostatic seem to provide the cleanest details of music . The sound is direct and lifelike on a good recording.

Randolph Fenton's picture

Isobarik loading provides excellent linearity and extension within a relatively confined enclosure. Ceramic polymer and mass loading for triagular enclosures such as the WATT provides more accuracy and speed than anything I have heard. The ability to collect store and release energy with impunity should always be a priority

Martin Macrae's picture

Cone drivers win out on practicality, power handling, and musicality.

Adam Carter's picture

Electrostatic technology having the capability to go beyond dynamic mid's & highs with its lack of crossover. However, lows coming from a properly designed dynamic enclosures provide the best combo of the two.

GM's picture

It's very difficult to pick any single type of technology as the "best" for accurate reproduction. Everything has a distinctive sound. Personally, an electrostatic hybrid pleases my ears immensely. This isn't to say that I haven't heard other configurations that have my heart sing. In the end the depth of my budget determines which configuration I will purchase, not which is necessarily the most pleasing.

John P.  Wirick, Jr.'s picture

I've had experience with almost all speaker types since I started buying equipment in 1976: ESS Heil, Yamaha NS-500 (with vapor-deposition Beryllium dome tweeter), Dahlquist DQ-10 (which I tested against and preferred to the Klipsch Heresey), Martin-Logan Sequel -IIs (the first speaker that I thought sounded better than the Dahlquists, and a few ribbon hybrids available then, including Carver's Amazing, which sounded like the ESS Heils---fast and detailed midrange and treble over bass like elephants plodding through quicksand). I thought each pair of speakers I bought were the greatest things in the world until I found the next one. I would have stopped with the Logans, except home comparison with the Bowers & Wilkens 801 Series 3 made the Sequel 11 sound brittle in the mid and upper registers (even with a tube preamp: AR SP11 Mk. 2). My ears like the realism of the dynamic/cone drivers in my B&Ws, their big brothers the Signature 30s, and their main competition, the EgglestonWorks Andras. Other speaker types sound (to me) initially seductive for one sonic aspect or another, but fail to provide lasting satisfaction. Now if I can just get B&W or Eggleston to swap me "even-up" some Signature 30s or Andras for my 801's . . .

Marc Phillips's picture

Every time I begin auditioning loudspeakers for potential purchase, I find myself gravitating toward the stand-mounted two-way monitors. After all these years of audiophilia, I have yet to own a midrange driver.

Jack Massey's picture

I have the BMW 801 series 3 and love them.

Jeremy Close's picture

It seems to me that in the last few years the performance of traditional dynamic drivers has increased remarkably. If you'd asked the question four years ago, I'd have said electrostatics offered the highest level of performance. (A few) Dynamic speakers now can have all the advantages of electrostatica without the practical drawbacks. I may have to eat my words when the new Quads come out. :-) The new Quads aside, it seems that builders of electrostatics, planar, ribbon, and horn speakers have not been able to advance the state of their respective arts, presumably due to financial constraints. You left out what I consider to be the most significant high-performance loudspeaker technology---active---whether the drivers be cones, ribbons, or whatever.

Karl Richichi U.T.  Media's picture

Martin Logan!!! Nothing more nothing less...

Stephen Curling's picture

DAL SC VI says it all!

Chris Hoff's picture

I have owned electrostats, ribbons, and dynamics, and overall prefer the dynamic drivers for their efficiency and flat response. The only thing I miss is the coherence of a single electrostat driver.

Bard-Alan Finlan's picture

Also great for headphones!

vincent Lindsay's picture

I have Legacy classics and I find them to give the power of a strong bottom yet with quick high extension in a very coherent and integrated package. My favorite thus far.

Charles Busa's picture

I am not sure if the dynamic/cone drivers are necessarily the best, or if they appear that way only because the best manufacturers concentrate their efforts on them.

Mark Lamb's picture

It is not necessarily the technology, but the execution that counts the most! Coherent systems can be made using various driver types, but they must be designed as a synergistic whole, not combinations of good pieces. My personal experience with building my own speakers suggests that the build quality of the enclosure is much more important than most people think.

cl314's picture

I feel that electrostatic and planar drivers offer the best in sound reproduction!!

Saleh Sadiq's picture

All speakers should be much more efficient, requiring less voltage and producing more acoustic power so that the output will more closely approach realistic SPLs.

Del Mineard's picture

They been around for years and when designed correctly still produce the best sound for the dollar.

David Cavazos's picture

I found this to be a very difficult question. It was the one I had to answer when I chose what speakers to buy. I vote for dynamic/cone drivers because it is what I bought. However, the electrostatics were a VERY close second.

steve thomas's picture

Except the ones that are right are too too big for the wife - poor waf

Jim in Dallas's picture

I own a pair of Martin-Logan ReQuests and am completely satisfied with their performance. How's that for an endorsement of the electrostatic panel/electrodynamic woofer hybrid? The only thing that MIGHT have been more enjoyable (for me) was a pair of Apogee Grands. Wilson and B&W? Feh! Of course, your mileage may vary.

John Farrar's picture

I prefer fourth-order Linkwitz Riley, small drivers and low cross-over frequency for accurate soun staging. System should be supplemented with sub-woofer.

t3ddy's picture

It produce very open sound and the image is very good. For people like the best sound stage, these are the dream speaker.

Ron Rohlfing's picture

This is an area that I feel Stereophile has not addressed properly. After living with Ohm Fs for several years and not ever being totally satisfied, I decided to use a small 10x10x8 bedroom as a dedicated listening room. My search for speakers included some of the small monitor speakers that have received good reviews, but they couldn't give me the warmth I was looking for. Then I rediscovered Magneplaners. I tried the MMG, which Maggie sells direct for $500. I really liked this speaker, but I went a little more upscale to the SMG at $650. It not only looks nicer, but has a little more bottom end. I also tried the 1.5 at $1300 and was totally impressed, but they were too much speaker for my little room. I do not sell stereo equipment of any kind, nor do I have any vested intrest in Magnaplaner, but it would be nice to read a review of one of these speakers, as they are incredible values.

Anonymous's picture

Horns have a dynamic potential that has proved imposable in other designs, and can do so with beautiful small amplifiers, for other designs to play at realistic levels you need 200-1000Watts of crap Krell, Bryston or Levenson Solid state wanabe pro gear. So even if these other speakers are better they can't prove it because the amp required to drive them will ruin the sound.