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GoldenEar BRX Review (high-end Bookshelf Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 100 44.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 106 46.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 16 7.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 5 2.2%

  • Total voters
    227

JRS

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But what is the directivity of these when placed on a baffle, or is the trick to use a suitable waveguide?
That's a good question and one which I would love a definitive answer to. To start with what I do know is that of course ribbons act as a line source and have terrible vertical dispersion--so for many situations a no-go from the get go. AMT's don't suffer the same problem and horizontal and vertical dispersion are similar to a dome. Both can be horn loaded, though I suspect there is only so much that can be done with the limited vertical dispersion with the ribbons. I haven't seen many designs at all using waveguided AMT's. The physical dimensions and construction would seem to make it more difficult, but I cannot say. I do know that when it comes to PA's there are some really, really good ribbons and AMT's.

I am just old school enough to say that I am less concerned about directivity than many--there have been many fabulous loudspeakers designed and built over my lifetime that didn't check all of the boxes when it comes to a perfect Harmon score and stellar DI. Frankly, I find the whole idea a bit offputting that calibrating an ideal playback curve from the averaged responses of a heterogeneous population of trained and untrained listeners should somehow become "the reference". I do sound for myself, and my partner. And whether buying or owning a space, a proper listening room is a major priority, and so almost of these considerations are moot--I hand voice it to my own ears, have several targets I use and can select from, and no speaker is going to be put in a spot where reflections will rival the direct sound. If so, I would use room treatment first.

So in my frame of reference, an indestructible, highly sensitive and neutral transducer is what matters most, and getting all the DI transitions perfect less so. But I have no doubt that there aren't approaches that check all the boxes, especially with the AMT drivers that have dome like vert dispersion.
 

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Aperiodic

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Come on, the Heil drivers debuted in the ESS1 in like 1976.
To narrow it down a bit, I heard them at the local hi-fi store on May 15, 1973.
No, my memory is not 'that' good.... I just happened to save my McIntosh Amplifier Clinic results which tell me the date. I heard them demo'd there that same night. I remember hearing 'You're So Vain' on them. Very detailed for its time with maybe some sibilant emphasis IIRC (long long time ago).
 

thewas

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To start with what I do know is that of course ribbons act as a line source and have terrible vertical dispersion--so for many situations a no-go from the get go. AMT's don't suffer the same problem and horizontal and vertical dispersion are similar to a dome.
Directivitiy mainly depends not on their sound generation principle but on the dimensions of the driver, larger AMTs in one direction will beam in that direction also more without a waveguide.

So in my frame of reference, an indestructible, highly sensitive and neutral transducer is what matters most, and getting all the DI transitions perfect less so.
Guess that depends except on personal preference also on other factors, in my new listening room which is unfortunately very reflective loudspeakers with not smooth directivity don't work well and I strongly prefer the ones with very good directivity, as they image more precisely and also don't cause so much listening fatigue to me. In my old acoustically treated room I had less problems with first.
 

mrmoizy

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Come on, the Heil drivers debuted in the ESS1 in like 1976. Granted a lot of additional work wasn't done until the 2000's when a bunch made their way into mainstream consumer audio, but those original ESS AMT's had quite a fan club-I remember the day and the time I first heard them almost the way average people might remember when John Lennon was shot. It was in a Fall Saturday morning, good weather, and I am in an audio store in Tustin, CA, and the clerk has just cued up some Peter Green guitar (Fleetwood Mac, Albatross). My jaw dislocates.

I've had a handful of audio experiences like that in my life--but that the tweeter was something very special was beyond any doubt, and my audio bearings as to what was possible just got revised.

So hardly new-fangled, need the warts worked out. You might look at the Aurum Cantus line of aerostriction tweeters which are
a) exceptionally flat
b) are extremely efficient and
c) can reach ear piercing levels (118-120dB) with no harm done to the drivers.

Find me a dome for 300 bucks that will do this:
BTW I've owned and measured a pair, the specs are accurate, at least down to 1200 Hz. I didn't want to risk damage.
Interesting. It's a cool technology for sure, but much of that coolness is wasted or just requires gymnastics to implement properly. For instance, in this Golden Ear build, what good is it if this tweeter could reach 110+ SPL? The woofer can't keep pace, so the efficiency aspect is wasted. You would need so much low end capability to climb to 120+ SPL. It's admirable how efficient these are, but it's rare to find a product or build that can leverage that efficiency by keeping pace with lower end efficiency.

That frequency response chart looks nice, but there are many dome tweeters on Parts-Express that seem pretty smooth in the audible band. This $50 Peerless dome tweeter is pretty smooth until it encounters a breakup at 28khz https://www.parts-express.com/pedocs/specs/264-1676--peerless-da25tx00-08-spec-sheet.pdf.

Zaph Audio did an interesting look at these non-dome tweeters a while back. They have cool qualities, but many of them were beset by odd-ordered harmonic distortion, and again, they have a narrow listening window. http://zaphaudio.com/nondomes/

When properly implemented in the right system, these are cool tweeters. But I think sometimes they're used not because they are the best option (like in this case of a small bookshelf build), but because they LOOK expensive and sophisticated and help justify a higher sticker price in a showroom.
 

mhardy6647

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Kind of off-topic (not to mention rhetorical ;)), but not really off-topic:

Just what is behind the industry's fascination with (fixation on) loudspeakers that present low-impedance and/or otherwise difficult loads for amplifiers?


5vd9fa.jpg



Yeah, I realize there are amplifiers that are happy to drive low impedance and weirdly reactive loads -- but there's no need to design loudspeakers that require such an amplifier... is there?

:confused:
 

bobitto

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Looks like the only products Aamir actually likes are the Chinese DACs ))
 

JRS

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Interesting. It's a cool technology for sure, but much of that coolness is wasted or just requires gymnastics to implement properly. For instance, in this Golden Ear build, what good is it if this tweeter could reach 110+ SPL? The woofer can't keep pace, so the efficiency aspect is wasted. You would need so much low end capability to climb to 120+ SPL. It's admirable how efficient these are, but it's rare to find a product or build that can leverage that efficiency by keeping pace with lower end efficiency.

That frequency response chart looks nice, but there are many dome tweeters on Parts-Express that seem pretty smooth in the audible band. This $50 Peerless dome tweeter is pretty smooth until it encounters a breakup at 28khz https://www.parts-express.com/pedocs/specs/264-1676--peerless-da25tx00-08-spec-sheet.pdf.

Zaph Audio did an interesting look at these non-dome tweeters a while back. They have cool qualities, but many of them were beset by odd-ordered harmonic distortion, and again, they have a narrow listening window. http://zaphaudio.com/nondomes/

When properly implemented in the right system, these are cool tweeters. But I think sometimes they're used not because they are the best option (like in this case of a small bookshelf build), but because they LOOK expensive and sophisticated and help justify a higher sticker price in a showroom.
Points taken. The tweeters are much better utilized in the far more upscale Triton series, esp the One through Three where the higher outputs are integrated into a system that can keep up. I can attest to that personally as I had the salesman crank up the Twos at a local fealer to the ear bleed level, and there was no hint of stress. My guess is that GoldenEars pays very little per piece and decided to use them because why not? In terms of two ways, the Adam speakers represent a much better realized use and in particular, the T7V are a well designed active (which can properly exploit the efficiency of the AMT) that represent an excellent value, and is a much better example of how these inexpensive drivers can be properly utilized. The AMT there sits within a fairly deep wave guide that provides well controlled dispersion and interestingly reveals the flattest FR to be 30 degrees off axis. Vertical dispersion looked very much like ribbons. So all of which is to say, there is absolutely no reason that the AMT's cannot compete in a budget loudspeaker, and can indeed exploit their huge dynamic range using an active configuration.

As to the FR of the AC, I agree that the manufacturers FR charts should be taken with a grain of salt; that's why I chose an example where I personally measured the driver and can vouch for the accuracy. Finally, re Zaph's all ribbons suck treatise, after reading that one would have to have their head examined to even consider a ribbon as there was little to recommend them except the transient response IIRC.

Re that "paper," it is quite curious that one thing I have never heard people complain of is the sort of edginess one might associate with the high levels of odd distortion--here I can only speak for myself, is that I have always loved the sound of ribbons and magnetoplanar drivers (which is why I am advocating here on this thread for their use) is because I never get the dental drill sensation I associate with some domes at very high drive levels. I cannot speak for the drivers Zaph tested--the drivers I have personal and extended experience include the Infinity Emit and EMIM drivers, the B&G RD75's which formed the core of my favorite big system, the AC AMT drivers (25120), the drivers used in the Newform Research hybrids, and my current tweeters the AC G1 ribbons. Speakers whose HF response led me to eventually abandon them were the Thiel CS2.3. and Dunlavy Sc IVA*. Go figure--two exceptional speakers that had impeccable credentials and measurements. On the plus side, I lived happily with my AR LST-2 and ADS 1290's for many years, however. And I also quite liked both of the SB acoustic tweeters I have used: one in a 2.5 of my own design an the other the Sartori ring tweeter used in J. Bagby's 2 way--this after digital had matured many years later.

So I guess we are at a bit of an impasse: which is OK. I believe I delivered a reasonable defense of the technology, if not the performance of the current use case.

* Sitting down in his Colorado Springs factory with John Dunlavy was a great treat, and one I will always remember--audio was just one of this exceptional engineer's wide ranging talents. And you can bet the SC-IVa sounded great.
 
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Sonny1

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Hmm, you don’t like these? I guess that must mean you don’t have GoldenEars! Do they make a budget line, CopperEar speakers, or Bronze? Just joking, another overpriced brand exposed by Amir and his Klippel. These were never on my list but I’m glad to see the truth before making a bad decision. For $1600, I would expect better. Heck, for $500, I would expect better than this type of performance.

Thanks to Amir for preventing people from making bad decisions once again.
 

mrmoizy

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One thing I know for sure,
Points taken. The tweeters are much better utilized in the far more upscale Triton series, esp the One through Three where the higher outputs are integrated into a system that can keep up. I can attest to that personally as I had the salesman crank up the Twos at a local fealer to the ear bleed level, and there was no hint of stress. My guess is that GoldenEars pays very little per piece and decided to use them because why not? In terms of two ways, the Adam speakers represent a much better realized use and in particular, the T7V are a well designed active (which can properly exploit the efficiency of the AMT) that represent an excellent value, and is a much better example of how these inexpensive drivers can be properly utilized. The AMT there sits within a fairly deep wave guide that provides well controlled dispersion and interestingly reveals the flattest FR to be 30 degrees off axis. Vertical dispersion looked very much like ribbons. So all of which is to say, there is absolutely no reason that the AMT's cannot compete in a budget loudspeaker, and can indeed exploit their huge dynamic range using an active configuration.

As to the FR of the AC, I agree that the manufacturers FR charts should be taken with a grain of salt; that's why I chose an example where I personally measured the driver and can vouch for the accuracy. Finally, re Zaph's all ribbons suck treatise, after reading that one would have to have their head examined to even consider a ribbon as there was little to recommend them except the transient response IIRC.

Re that "paper," it is quite curious that one thing I have never heard people complain of is the sort of edginess one might associate with the high levels of odd distortion--here I can only speak for myself, is that I have always loved the sound of ribbons and magnetoplanar drivers (which is why I am advocating here on this thread for their use) is because I never get the dental drill sensation I associate with some domes at very high drive levels. I cannot speak for the drivers Zaph tested--the drivers I have personal and extended experience include the Infinity Emit and EMIM drivers, the B&G RD75's which formed the core of my favorite big system, the AC AMT drivers (25120), the drivers used in the Newform Research hybrids, and my current tweeters the AC G1 ribbons. Speakers whose HF response led me to eventually abandon them were the Thiel CS2.3. and Dunlavy Sc IVA*. Go figure--two exceptional speakers that had impeccable credentials and measurements. On the plus side, I lived happily with my AR LST-2 and ADS 1290's for many years, however. And I also quite liked both of the SB acoustic tweeters I have used: one in a 2.5 of my own design an the other the Sartori ring tweeter used in J. Bagby's 2 way--this after digital had matured many years later.

So I guess we are at a bit of an impasse: which is OK. I believe I delivered a reasonable defense of the technology, if not the performance of the current use case.

* Sitting down in his Colorado Springs factory with John Dunlavy was a great treat, and one I will always remember--audio was just one of this exceptional engineer's wide ranging talents. And you can bet the SC-IVa sounded great.
One thing I know for sure, is you have certainly listened to many more ribbons than I ever have. Very little experience on my part in comparison to yours, would have been cool to hear some of those demos you've heard. I've dabbled in speaker design, and a concession I've always made is to opt for domes due to the overall budget of the build. I should splurge and include one someday to take a walk on the wild side I guess. My comments are mere observations from some of the tests on here I've seen.

A key point about that Zaph article is it's a really small sample size of ribbons/AMTs/planars (understandably so, I think he may have paid out of pocket for the drivers, was just testing them as a hobbyist). There are many more really nice ribbon/AMT units out there that would be interesting to test and hear. And as others have noted, it would be interesting to see the effect a taller unit would have in reducing the narrow vertical window these tend to have.

Ribbons/AMTs/Planars certainly have their place, and the nicest ones seem like Ferraris in the world of high frequency drivers, but it just seems like a ribbon is thrown into a bookshelf product to give the appearance of performance and sophistication, like a chrome tailpipe on a sedan, in an attempt to justify the price in the "performance package" upgrade. Probably my initial comment that they need more development is off - it's more like they need to be used in the right builds in the right way, and not to just add a look of sophistication.
 

Ron Texas

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I had high hopes for this one considering that many view the Triton Reference as an endgame speaker. The uneven frequency response did these in. Thank you @amirm.
 
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JRS

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Ribbons/AMTs/Planars certainly have their place, and the nicest ones seem like Ferraris in the world of high frequency drivers, but it just seems like a ribbon is thrown into a bookshelf product to give the appearance of performance and sophistication, like a chrome tailpipe on a sedan, in an attempt to justify the price in the "performance package" upgrade. Probably my initial comment that they need more development is off - it's more like they need to be used in the right builds in the right way, and not to just add a look of sophistication.
I should have emphasized that the Adam speakers I mention that use the AMT tweeters in a 2 way are five hundred/pair. But I agree, that when it comes to sourcing good drivers for DYI, the expense can be prohibitive. The Dayton audio AMT's are an exception, but unfortunately don't measure that well, and I suspect the effort required to get them to sound as good as a 30 dollar dome is simply not worth it.

In the more ambitious DYI projects, some folk pay the going rate for Raals, but those of us dealing with budgetary constraints look elsewhere, yet accept that 150 to 300 dollars for a really, really good driver whether dome or not is not out of line. Just saying that they are not all that exotic, and there are many DIY projects that use ribbon speakers. Have not seen many, if any that use AMT's, tho. So just another tool.

And thanks for pointing out the shortcomings of John K's ribbon survey. Certainly I am not taking him to task, but he did seem to have something of an axe to grind. It rubbed me the wrong way when reading it many years ago, but I fell in love with planars fifty years ago, and wouldn't let a little distortion deter me, especially when they sound so clean. But he recognized the I forget Fountek?? as having acceptable performance, so it wasn't all negative.

Certainly Paul Carmody, Jeff Bagby and Troels Graveson have/had no reservations about using ribbons in projects. So there are pros/cons like anything else in audio--and for an inexpensive two way sourcing readily available parts, no doubt domes and cones remain king.
 

dfuller

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I should have emphasized that the Adam speakers I mention that use the AMT tweeters in a 2 way are five hundred/pair. But I agree, that when it comes to sourcing good drivers for DYI, the expense can be prohibitive. The Dayton audio AMT's are an exception, but unfortunately don't measure that well, and I suspect the effort required to get them to sound as good as a 30 dollar dome is simply not worth it.

In the more ambitious DYI projects, some folk pay the going rate for Raals, but those of us dealing with budgetary constraints look elsewhere, yet accept that 150 to 300 dollars for a really, really good driver whether dome or not is not out of line. Just saying that they are not all that exotic, and there are many DIY projects that use ribbon speakers. Have not seen many, if any that use AMT's, tho. So just another tool.

And thanks for pointing out the shortcomings of John K's ribbon survey. Certainly I am not taking him to task, but he did seem to have something of an axe to grind. It rubbed me the wrong way when reading it many years ago, but I fell in love with planars fifty years ago, and wouldn't let a little distortion deter me, especially when they sound so clean. But he recognized the I forget Fountek?? as having acceptable performance, so it wasn't all negative.

Certainly Paul Carmody, Jeff Bagby and Troels Graveson have/had no reservations about using ribbons in projects. So there are pros/cons like anything else in audio--and for an inexpensive two way sourcing readily available parts, no doubt domes and cones remain king.
Yeah realistically the issue with AMTs is not that they're bad tech, it's that they're expensive for the performance they provide compared to a similarly priced dome.
 

Robbo99999

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I voted this speaker as "Poor (headless panther)" - this speaker is just way too compromised in a number of areas whilst costing a princely sum of $1598 a pair. @amirm , nice detective work to re the High Pass filter and it's counterintuitive association with less brightness (due to distortion removal)! Yeah, this speaker is just way too compromised, no bass, distortion in bass, rocky frequency response, poor directivity, not really salvageable with EQ and really quite expensive.
 

AnalogSteph

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Kind of off-topic (not to mention rhetorical ;)), but not really off-topic:

Just what is behind the industry's fascination with (fixation on) loudspeakers that present low-impedance and/or otherwise difficult loads for amplifiers?
This one is still within spec for a nominal 4 ohm speaker, and in fact the woofer quite clearly is that kind. Not really "hard to drive" IMHO, not by European standards anyway.

I'm pretty sure the main objective is keeping sensitivity at a decent level. What for I'm not sure in this case, given that distortion falls apart at less than 20 W anyway.
 

LaoMan

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I think far too many of you look at measurements and do not use your ears. That is rather sad.
 

LaoMan

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This is typical of someone who lacks the intellectual nous to make a proper response.
 
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amirm

amirm

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I think far too many of you look at measurements and do not use your ears. That is rather sad.
Four decades of research shows that these measurements are quite powerful in predicting listener preference. What is sad is that if I asked you how much of that research you have read, your answer would be zero.

I suggest watching this video on I produced on how awful your "ears" are in assessing the sound of a speaker:

 

LaoMan

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Amir, that is a really silly comment. "What is sad is that if I asked you how much of that research you have read, your answer would be zero." This quote is a rather ignorant one as you have no idea.
No doubt you aware of the phrase "De gustibus non est disputandum". I would never buy a piece of equipment based on measurements. Everything I own has been purchased after lengthy periods of listening and comparison. If I wish to purchase something and it sounds great to me, well I am the one who listend to it, not some sycophantic audience of readers. It appears to me that very few people here on this site do this. I may be wrong, but I doubt it.
 
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