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Do high-efficiency speakers really have better 'dynamics'?

Gorgonzola

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A very experienced audiophile on another forum recently asserted that high-efficiency speakers were inherently more dynamic than other types. By high-efficiency I believe he meant >92 dB sensitivity; by "dynamic" I believe he meant more brilliant response to transient signals.

Do hi-eff speakers inherently have better dynamics? Or is dynamics more a matter of amplifier and amplifier power?

In the course of discussion I suggested that I could use a <3 wpc Decware SE84UFO if I were driving 96 dB sensitivity speakers but that the selection of such speakers is fairly limited; at that point he made his high-efficiency = more dynamic assertion.

Right now I'm finding my 86 dB sensitivity speakers are amazingly dynamic driven by my Purifi amp -- I'm not seriously considering either a 3 wpc amp or a 96 dB speaker.
 

Everett T

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A very experienced audiophile on another forum recently asserted that high-efficiency speakers were inherently more dynamic than other types. By high-efficiency I believe he meant >92 dB sensitivity; by "dynamic" I believe he meant more brilliant response to transient signals.

Do hi-eff speakers inherently have better dynamics? Or is dynamics more a matter of amplifier and amplifier power?

In the course of discussion I suggested that I could use a <3 wpc Decware SE84UFO if I were driving 96 dB sensitivity speakers but that the selection of such speakers is fairly limited; at that point he made his high-efficiency = more dynamic assertion.

Right now I'm finding my 86 dB sensitivity speakers are amazingly dynamic driven by my Purifi amp -- I'm not seriously considering either a 3 wpc amp or a 96 dB speaker.
A good read on why sensitivity is relative
https://www.audioholics.com/loudspeaker-design/loudspeaker-sensitivity
 

Another Bob

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Do hi-eff speakers inherently have better dynamics?
Subjectively, that has been my experience. Many reviewers have noted this - J. Gordon Holt used to refer to the "jump factor" of horn speakers, for example. However, I have never seen a measurement which confirms it, or at least, not to the degree that I would expect. Erin's Audio Corner does compression tests, and even relatively modest speakers generally have compression of less than 0.5 dB up to 102 dB of output over most of the audio range. And logically, as long as a speaker is within its linear operating range (i.e. doesn't compress), there should be no difference between a low sensitivity speaker with big amplifier power vs. a high sensitivity speaker with the volume turned down to match.
 

Jim Matthews

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I'll take a stab at this - high sensitivity speakers tend to be very lightly suspended by their voice coil spiders and surrounds. I suspect the impulse response of these is emphasized when a particularly dynamic recording is playing. The observed effect might not be so pronounced with more even recordings using compression.


There are entire sites devoted to the proper realignment of Lowther drivers, down to which adhesive is the best compromise.

In the case of higher sensitivity large drivers (10 inches diameter of more) this means lower frequencies can be reproduced in quiet passages at lower spl. This is difficult to achieve with less sensitive drivers that may have more robust suspensions.

The dynamics are apparently greater as some of these drivers can survive loud passages, regularly. Adding horn loading achieves even greater efficiency, allowing some excellent marriages with Direct heated triodes of lower power output with very simple crossover networks.

The trade off is really in terms of size, expense and fussiness.

*****

Thirty odd years pursuing that recipe lead me to a purely digital front end and active speakers that are compact by comparison. I couldn't be happier with the change.

Here's an analogy - I'll attend a classic car show but drive a new ride under warranty.
 

Kvalsvoll

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... asserted that high-efficiency speakers were inherently more dynamic than other types. By high-efficiency I believe he meant >92 dB sensitivity; by "dynamic" I believe he meant more brilliant response to transient signals.

And he was right - generally, for a lot of speakers.

BUT - this has nothing to do with efficiency directly, it has to do with properties of the motor system in the drivers, and radiation pattern. Example - if efficiency alone is the decisive parameter, a La Scala should sound much more "dynamic" than a magnestat dipole with approx. 75-80dB sensitivity - it does not.
 

Jim Taylor

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High efficiency sensitivity loudspeakers may .... and I emphasize may .... have less heat buildup in the crossover and voice coil. This may make a difference after they have been playing at higher levels for awhile, such as in pro audio and live sound. But I would expect there to be more of a difference in cheap and/or poor-quality units built to a price point, not well-engineered ones. Jim
 

richard12511

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And he was right - generally, for a lot of speakers.

BUT - this has nothing to do with efficiency directly, it has to do with properties of the motor system in the drivers, and radiation pattern. Example - if efficiency alone is the decisive parameter, a La Scala should sound much more "dynamic" than a magnestat dipole with approx. 75-80dB sensitivity - it does not.

Can you expand on this? My subjective experience makes me think there is something to this, but I know of no objective reason why it should be the case(as long as both speakers are playing within their limits).
 

amirm

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Subjectively, that has been my experience. Many reviewers have noted this - J. Gordon Holt used to refer to the "jump factor" of horn speakers, for example. However, I have never seen a measurement which confirms it, or at least, not to the degree that I would expect.
That is where I am as well. I wish we could make progress on objective side, or prove that the subjective experience is wrong. We are in a bit of limbo here.

For me, I listened to low wattage tube amplifier driving horns at CES in a massive room which I cannot replicate with my Salon 2 speakers and massive amplification. This was the system and demo:


More recent experience has been no less than three JBL speakers that left me with that impression as well.
 

HooStat

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I was looking at the Revel 328Be and noted that its sensitivity was 91 vs. the Salon 2's 86. I imagine that was intentional (and perhaps a tradeoff for bass extension). I wonder if they have some evidence that cause them to move in that direction.
 

mhardy6647

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A very experienced audiophile on another forum recently asserted that high-efficiency speakers were inherently more dynamic than other types. By high-efficiency I believe he meant >92 dB sensitivity; by "dynamic" I believe he meant more brilliant response to transient signals.

Do hi-eff speakers inherently have better dynamics? Or is dynamics more a matter of amplifier and amplifier power?

In the course of discussion I suggested that I could use a <3 wpc Decware SE84UFO if I were driving 96 dB sensitivity speakers but that the selection of such speakers is fairly limited; at that point he made his high-efficiency = more dynamic assertion.

Right now I'm finding my 86 dB sensitivity speakers are amazingly dynamic driven by my Purifi amp -- I'm not seriously considering either a 3 wpc amp or a 96 dB speaker.
You'll need, IME, more than 96 dB sensitivity @ 1 meter for the Decware amp with any reasonably dynamic source material in any reasonable sized room.

We're at about 104 dB per watt at 1 meter here, but (as I've mentioned elsewhere on this forum just recently :) ) the SE84B from Deckert won't cut it, fullrange. SE 2A3 (ca. 3.5 watts per channel) is fine in my room, which is fairly large (loft over a US-sized two-car garage).

EDIT: Dynamics? Yeah, we got dynamics. :cool:

DSC_0938 (3) by Mark Hardy, on Flickr
 
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Thomas_A

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I am speculating here but what about narrow directionality in horns causing a high direct:reflected ratiio? Regarding inreased dynamics, having a damping wall behind traditional speakers opened my ears to a new level. (I do not have this today due to estethics though.)
 

Kvalsvoll

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Can you expand on this? My subjective experience makes me think there is something to this, but I know of no objective reason why it should be the case(as long as both speakers are playing within their limits).

If you saw the post by @amirm below your reply, he states having a similar experience, acknowledging there are speakers who make transients stand out more and sound more powerful and realistic.

When looking at more objective answers as to why this happens, we can look at freq resp, nonlinear distortion/compression, and masking effects from room acoustic effects.

Freq resp we can rule out.

If we try to achieve a snare drum with physical slam, a small speaker will soon reach its spl limit and thus compress - we can not achieve sufficient peak spl. With some speakers this will happen at even very reasonable spl levels - this is where the motor design of the driver makes a difference. The "dynamic" speakers are usually capable of playing very loud.

At lower spl, there can still be differences. Room reflections will smear the transient signal so that the peak energy will be distributed over a longer time interval.
 

KeithPhantom

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high-efficiency speakers were inherently more dynamic than other types.
If you give the least-efficient one with enough power to match the SPL of the efficient one at any level holding other variables as the same), they will have to sound the same. Actually, because of the inefficiency, it is relatively less sensitive to hum and noise, so you can actually get a better SFDR out of an inefficient speaker easier since the gear doesn't have to be as linear as the efficient speaker's gear.
 

sq225917

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It makes sense that many high sensitivity speakers are that way due to horn loading, which providing a better impedance match to the air in the room, can sound more dynamic. Add in directivity, softer suspension, potential lack of thermal compression and its beginning to look audible in some cases, maybe even likely?

That said they all sound like one trick pont PA systems to my ears. 15 foot wide girl and guitar, not really my thing..
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I think there are a couple things going on with horn speakers which have relatively little to do with basic sensitivity or efficiency. Horns have more of a solidly defined directional pattern so all the sound is focused to a specific area. Also, most higher end HF / MF horns use compression drivers, which launch (literally launch) the sound in a different manner than a regular dynamic driver (which would have zero compression ratio). This is bound to have a more subjectively 'direct' or 'projected' sound character than a cone or dome driver. Some would call this a more 'dynamic' sound, and I would tend to agree. That's absolutely how my large Altec Lansing horns sound. I don't think there will ever be an objective measurement of this effect, but its very real.

The downside to horns is that they take quite a bit of finesse to get them to not 'sound like horns' in the pejorative sense. This can be accomplished though - trust me. ;)
 

dfuller

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they take quite a bit of finesse to get them to not 'sound like horns' in the pejorative sense
I wonder if this is why I've found every compression driver based speaker I've used to be kind of shouty?
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I wonder if this is why I've found every compression driver based speaker I've used to be kind of shouty?
That's absolutely why. In my specific case I use equalization to smooth out the bump in efficiency in the HF response (crossover is 500Hz) so that there is none of the 'shouty' character. Without this, these horns sound as shouty as you would expect.
 
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