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do single driver full range speakers perform better? Do they sound different compared to 2 way etc speakers?

dervish

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#1
do single driver full range speakers perform better? Do they sound different compared to 2 way etc speakers? I am just wondering.
 

andreasmaaan

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#2
They perform differently for a few reasons. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully illustrates the basic differences.

First the positives:
  • The absence of a crossover will mean that the phase response of a single driver speaker is more linear than a (passive) multi-way speaker.
  • The absence of a crossover will mean that a single-driver speaker will tend to have a smoother polar response than a multi-way (non-coaxial) speaker.
But the negatives:
  • The single driver will be larger than a single tweeter, so the speaker will tend to be more directional at higher frequencies.
  • The single driver will tend to generate more intermodulation distortion because the same cone that is producing high frequencies will be displacing more as it reproduces bass frequencies.
  • The single driver will find it hard to strike a balance between reproducing deep bass (which requires a larger surface area / low resonance frequency) and being small enough not to suffer from cone breakup in the high frequencies.
For these reasons, single driver speakers do tend to sound different to multi-way speakers. Most of the problems that single driver speakers tend to solve are more effectively solved by other means (e.g. active DSP crossovers, coaxial designs), with less significant trade-offs.

There are very few applications beyond small portable speakers for which I'd say the significant limitations of a single driver speaker are worth it.

*edited with a few additional points added
 
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sergeauckland

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#3
I've never found a full-range driver to be as good as multiways.
Firstly, no ''full-range' driver is ever full range. If they are big enough for bass, they won't do treble, both from the sheer mass of cone and beaming of treble like a flashlight.
Then there's cone breakup. To have any chance of doing treble, the cone must be light, or have a HUGE magnet system, and light cones tend not to be so stiff, and large magnets are very expensive.
Even panel loudspeakers like electrostatics, which may the thought of as 'full range' have different sections for different frequency bands, as much to reduce beaming as anything else, but even with the lightweight diaphragms used in electrostatics, mass matters at HF, and output and sensitivity are related so an electrode spacing that's good for bass won't be right for high frequencies.

I suppose it's possible, using exotic magnetic and cone materials, to have a driver that's nearly 'full range' but it'll be fragile and expensive, still won't perform as well as a two or three way, and so will be a poor engineering solution.



S
 

digicidal

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#5
I have two sets of ported reflex cabinets with FR drivers in them - both Fostex models. They were cheap, are huge, and are a little ugly IMO. They're both very early Tekton models like these:
IMG_2240.JPG
DSC04629c.jpg


The way voices (especially in TV/Movies) sound is freakishly natural... as are most instruments between ~600Hz and ~3200Hz... for everything else they sound horrid. If you are really fond of "one voice, one acoustic guitar" style music... they're pretty fantastic (especially for $300-400/pr) - for anything outside of that... no. If the signal has any amount of low frequency energy, everything goes sideways - and even if you're over 60... there won't likely be enough HF energy at all.

I basically keep both pairs of speakers for listening to lectures, comedy acts, stringed instruments solo, or acapella vocals - or really old recordings, powered by a little tube amp (they are quite good sensitivity-wise) for nostalgic purposes. They're also fantastic for listening to TV while others are sleeping, because they're naturally attenuated for everything other than dialog. Transparent to the source they are not - cheap and fun they are (as long as they aren't your only pair). Totally subjective and just my opinion of course. I almost never dig them out any more, but I can't let them go either. But I'm a total speakerholic... so there's always room for one (or ten) more as far as I'm concerned.

EDIT: I should qualify that 600-3.2K number... they do produce sound from ~70Hz-14kHz... it's just down many dB's outside of their "sweet spot" so the midrage is in the room with you... and the rest of it sounds a bit like it's playing on the other side of the wall. Probably the biggest difference with fullrange speakers is there's no need for a crossover (although possibly a single resistor to tame an unruly peak) and phase alignment isn't a problem between drivers - since there's only one.
 
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#6
I have the fostex 6301 and have it permanently mounted in the garage. technically it doesn't sound as good as any of my other speakers with their limited FR range but they do sound better and are more even/neutral than any of my amazon echo devices. They are durable as hell and have dropped them on my concrete driveway twice. Needed something utilitarian, super durable, sealed, low power with auto standby, and with metal grills. Also, something that could stand canadian winters. I don't have a heated garage... but I do not run them when the temp. hits below 0 or close to zero degree celcius. When it's, say, 10 or 15 degrees, I run it on low volume. Fostex parts are easy enough to replace making it ideal here.
 
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#7
After hearing full range drivers in both enclosed and in open baffle, I was pretty gung ho to try a dyi project a couple of years ago but drifted away from that thought. Definitely an aquired taste, can be a bit bright in the upper registers and the smaller drivers need proper enclosers to get any significant lower frequency. Plenty of information on line along with the KEF LS50 and numerous Tannoy models plus a number of manufacture sites to visit. I actually grew up listening to a full range Phillips driver in my Dad's homemade speakers along with a tube amp no less, those things could really put out some volume, not even sure where they ended up to be honest.
 

FrantzM

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#8
So called full range drivers are NEVER full range. Physics is their problems see post
I've never found a full-range driver to be as good as multiways.
Firstly, no ''full-range' driver is ever full range. If they are big enough for bass, they won't do treble, both from the sheer mass of cone and beaming of treble like a flashlight.
Then there's cone breakup. To have any chance of doing treble, the cone must be light, or have a HUGE magnet system, and light cones tend not to be so stiff, and large magnets are very expensive.
Even panel loudspeakers like electrostatics, which may the thought of as 'full range' have different sections for different frequency bands, as much to reduce beaming as anything else, but even with the lightweight diaphragms used in electrostatics, mass matters at HF, and output and sensitivity are related so an electrode spacing that's good for bass won't be right for high frequencies.

I suppose it's possible, using exotic magnetic and cone materials, to have a driver that's nearly 'full range' but it'll be fragile and expensive, still won't perform as well as a two or three way, and so will be a poor engineering solution.



S
+1
Strong, non-PC opinions following:
These are audiophiles affectations. They seem to reproduce voices better than other speakers because that is the only frequency band they pass well, others are filtered ... So yeah! you will hear "that midrange" because there is nothing else to hear :) ...Yes! You can get some bass from these by the use of complicated enclosures. Those plays like a badly integrated subwoofer...
Not a good solution if you ask me.
 
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digicidal

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#9
Yeah, another factor which creates the false sense of accuracy or realism in the midrange (coupled with the natural increased sensitivity in humans at those frequencies) is the ridiculous ease of driving them. The FE206En's in my larger ones are 96dB/W and truly 8 ohms - as in they don't ever dip below that. So they reach their full potential (as limited as that might be) on any amplifier - even a 5W desktop amp or HTIB receiver can run them louder than you want to listen. You likely wouldn't want to listen to them for very long outside of that application (TV/garage spare system) anyway.

Accurate? Nope. Full-range? Nope. Dynamic midrange at less than 1W output? Yes. Solution looking for a problem? Probably. ;)
 
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#10
In general speakers, a single driver is always worse than a 2-way driver. A single driver lacks high and low frequencies. At low frequencies, the displacement of the diaphragm increases significantly. At the same time, when the high frequencies are played back in the same unit, the Doppler effect causes distortion.

But in earphones and headphones, a single unit is better. This is because earphones and headphones operate in a pressure chamber. In pressure chambers, the diaphragm displacement at low frequencies does not have to be as large as the free sound field. Sound pressure is proportional to the displacement.
 

maty

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#11
The best compromise between two speakers designs I think:

* A small coaxial like KEF 5.25" (KEF 6.5" sounds like traditional 2-way, without the "magic").

* Woofer up to 6.5" and... a very good waveguide in the tweeter. Bigger room, you can try with bigger woofer.

Always two-ways, not three ways, to listen to very good recordings.

If you listen to electronic, hip hop... you can add two subwoofers but with the phase can be regulated and not only switched between 0º and 180º. Or multimedia. With classical, jazz, acoustic... they cut true almost at least at 50 Hz at -3 dB.

If the speakers have reasonable flat frequency it must be easy they sound better in a room or need less agressive room eq. If you want to modifify the sound profile, better from a good/very good DSP 64-bit software (some of them are integrated with the soft player, like JRMC 64-bit).
 
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digicidal

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#12
The best compromise between two speakers designs I think:
* A small coaxial like KEF 5.25" (KEF 6.5" sounds like traditional 2-way, without the "magic").
* Woofer up to 6.5" and... a very good waveguide in the tweeter. Bigger room, you can try with bigger woofer.
Always two-ways, not three ways, to listen to very good recordings.
Hmmm... I'm glad you added the "I think" to that.
I would somewhat agree, but I am personally not terribly fond of most coaxial designs (including the KEF). However, that's my preference.
I would question the red, bold text as well. Sure an incompetent 3/4 way design won't be as coherent, and may have problems related to phase, time-alignment, or crossover issues - but that isn't a universal truth.

I am quite enjoying my new office speakers (Polk LSiM3) and I would certainly argue that those lucky enough to have a pair of speakers like the Revel Ultima Salon (and many, many others from numerous brands) are able to listen to very good recordings just fine! Every design has compromises - even the best 2-way designs.
 

maty

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#13
That is my experience. I have an old BIG 3-ways with woofer of 27 cm (10.6"), all cones of paper, 91 dB... modded by me. And I had a cheap full range speakers (I used to experience improvements) and now, as a substitute, a KEF Q100 5.25" coaxial modded too by me.

I think I have all audio components of my two systems modded by me. And electrical power very filtered too (I have a very dirty power at mains, usually near 238-240 Vac, with a lot of DC and... ) at the two systems. But the first is usually kidnapped... :(
 
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ER4S

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#14
But in earphones and headphones, a single unit is better. This is because earphones and headphones operate in a pressure chamber. In pressure chambers, the diaphragm displacement at low frequencies does not have to be as large as the free sound field. Sound pressure is proportional to the displacement.
That why i never understood Multi driver IEM's hyped by audiophiles, They suffer all the cons of 2/3 way speakers yet none of the pros. The ER4S sounds fantastic with one BA driver and the same for any Dynamic based ones.

Your filling a small room in your ear, there no need for 4 drivers or hybrid ones. lol
 

bigx5murf

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#15
Back when my wife lived in Japan, and I used to visit often. Akihabara had many small shops that catered to DIY single driver full range hobbyists. They'd always be demo'ing some female vocals/jazz, and at times they really did sound special. They must be pretty efficient too, since they're often powered by low powered tube amps.
 

digicidal

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#16
Back when my wife lived in Japan, and I used to visit often. Akihabara had many small shops that catered to DIY single driver full range hobbyists. They'd always be demo'ing some female vocals/jazz, and at times they really did sound special. They must be pretty efficient too, since they're often powered by low powered tube amps.
Yeah, if they'd been demoing classical, metal or EDM... people would have been running for the door. :D The are usually very efficient (some over 100dB/W in room). However, it's funny that most people that swear by them usually use flea-watt tube amps... which tend to do exactly the same kind of things to the FR that the driver is doing already - thus exacerbating the weaknesses rather than offsetting them. :facepalm:
 

bigx5murf

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#17
I wonder if these things were popular in Japan due to their tiny living quarters. These shops were basically booths barely larger than your average office cubicle. My wife's old apartment was the size of my garage.
 

digicidal

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#18
I wonder if these things were popular in Japan due to their tiny living quarters. These shops were basically booths barely larger than your average office cubicle. My wife's old apartment was the size of my garage.
That's possible, although you'd think they would be more drawn to small but extremely accurate and dynamic actives in that case. I think it has much more to do with the legacy of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s where Japan's technological reputation was extreme and largely tied to hifi gear specifically. I guess to some extent, owning "vintage gear" there is almost a patriotic exercise - and more power to them... they made some amazing stuff (still do actually). Considering the amount of space much of those FR folded horn designs take up... I think size was one of the last considerations.

In extreme cases, it seems they're willing to live in 20% of their already tiny living space... in order to fill the other 80% with huge speakers, tube monoblocks, 3-arm TT's and a few 1000 LPs. Can't say I'd be any different if I lived in the mecca of vintage hifi gear. :p
 

bigx5murf

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#19
Wasn't Japan in that era mostly pushing solid state electronics, and direct drive turntables. The stuff that hifi publications at the time were trying hard to discredit?

Most of the folded horn designs I saw in these shops were small, even the large ones were tall and narrow. The biggest ones were still very narrow, but deep.
 

Ron Texas

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#20
Studio monitors with a DSP crossover get rid of the passive crossover and associated problem. Most of them have waveguides and LF drivers of 7" or less.
 
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