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How far have ss amps really come in the last twenty years??

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MattHooper

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When Audiophiles critique systems they often criticise the reproduction of brass instruments as strident, blaring, overpowering, fatiguing, etc. Well, that is how they are. No need to go for the upper f frown EQ - just accept it or the fact that your perception is over-sensitised there.

Horns suffer from the same misconception.
I have to say my ears disagree.

I grew up with a Dad who was a jazz musician and music teacher - the sound of a trumpet often the house.

Whenever I hear horns sections - symphony, at clubs, or on the street (we have street musicians who often use horns) I am struck by how big, round warm and smooth they sound relative to the tiny, squeaky things coming out of our sound systems. Even when played at "blatty" levels, they have an ease compared to the squeezed, spitty sounding horns that I often hear from sound systems (due to recordings and/or the idiosyncrasies of a speaker's frequency response).

I've definitely found some speakers, and recordings, generally speaking produce horns that sound more peircing and artificial than the real thing.
The recordings/reproduction tends to be better at showing the leading edge transient nature of horns played hard. The real thing is balanced out by the warmth and other frequencies that are missing from the colored reproduction.
 

DonH56

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Don't make me come over there and blow my own horn...

Trumpets have a broad range of sound dictated by the player and bell. And there are many "flavors" of trumpets in different keys, different tubing and bell shapes, etc. Two or three basic trombones, etc. Brass sound tends to be more complex than strings from a spectral point of view, and flute is generally closest to a single tone sine wave.
 

MattHooper

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Don't make me come over there and blow my own horn...

Trumpets have a broad range of sound dictated by the player and bell. And there are many "flavors" of trumpets in different keys, different tubing and bell shapes, etc. Two or three basic trombones, etc. Brass sound tends to be more complex than strings from a spectral point of view, and flute is generally closest to a single tone sine wave.
Absolutely.

But even among the variety of horn sounds, I find the real thing to have the qualities I described relative to it's reproduction on a home stereo system. Generally speaking, there is a reductive quality to the reproduction of instruments (along with frequency departures...for many obvious reasons).
 

anmpr1

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Does anyone have any horn measurements to look at?
November 1986 Audio magazine (can be found in on-line archives) has Richard Heyser's review and measurement of the K-horn. The design of today's model is similar, but some changes have been made. Specifically in the bass loading, and driver materials. Not the easiest speaker to measure, given its requirements, but he did his typical excellent job.
 

anmpr1

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RE: horn measurements. I cannot reproduce Dr. Heyser's measurements and graphs, but below are his subjective impressions:

Orchestral balance is also quite accurate; horns and strings stay put and are accurately placed on the stereo and accurate on this system, and these instruments are so well placed that I felt I could point directly at each instrument. On the down side, to my ears, vocals, particularly female ones, seemed strident, and I could not get an accurate sonic illusion of piano, which always seemed larger than life, even at lower sound levels.

The usable listening area extends over much of the listening room, and one can move about freely without losing stereo balance as long as the speakers are at least 3 meters from your listening location. It takes a pretty good-sized room to get a good sound from the Klipsch system; a small
room will probably produce sonic disappointment. This is not a speaker system you haul to a dormitory.

The Klipsch system has two additional sonic characteristics which warrant discussion. First, it is one of the few sound-reproducing systems which sound natural when one walks into an adjacent room. This is an interesting subjective illusion, one which I cannot explain. However, we have all had the experience of hearing a live musical instrument being played in an adjacent room; it still sounds natural and we can readily tell that it is not artificially reproduced. The piano recordings with which I had had trouble while in the listening room actually sounded "live in the next room" when I was in a room adjacent to the listening area. While others may disagree, that is the illusion I experience.

The second characteristic is the maintenance of timbral balance even when the sound is reproduced at substantially lower sound levels than would be normal for a given piece of material. Again, this is my personal opinion, and others may disagree.
 

ahofer

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"Yup, a trumpet can hit 155 dB at 1 inch, and only at high frequencies. "

My understanding is that it is uniquely hazardous to one's hearing to sit in front of the Bass Trombone. On the other hand, this seat is usually occupied by the oboe, so no harm done :)
 

DonH56

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Bassoons and clarinets were in front of me in the orchestra I played. 'Bones to the left behind cellos and violas just encroaching on the bassoons, French horns to the right behind (mostly) violins and one of the clarinets. Oboes and flutes were one more row up. Our principal clarinet had earplugs for some of the louder pieces, particularly when we played a more "dead" hall and the conductor asked the back row to play louder.

Big bands I stood behind the bones then saxes. At church always a juggling act among praise band, organ, piano, and choir and their respective mics. For solos I stand beside or in front of the piano or organ (whichever is used) and have the sound guy turn off the mics. My wife is the accompanist and is used to my blasts but I always find an aimpoint other than her. She can cook, I can't, and a divorce would cost me a lot of toys. :)

Getting realistic sound out of a pair of speakers is challenging no matter the amp. Tubes with their sweet midrange sound nice on soft jazz and such but for big bands and orchestra I like SS for it's generally greater dynamic range and lower distortion. Ditto pop/rock/country.
 

watchnerd

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When Audiophiles critique systems they often criticise the reproduction of brass instruments as strident, blaring, overpowering, fatiguing, etc. Well, that is how they are. No need to go for the upper f frown EQ - just accept it or the fact that your perception is over-sensitised there.

Horns suffer from the same misconception.
This points out a circle of confusion problem with horns.

You don't see them very often in mixing/mastering environments. Aside from wave guides (are they horns?) on JBLs, you don't see real horns very often amongst studio monitors.

Which means that if horns sound very different from the kinds of speakers more commonly used as studio monitors, the mix/EQ decided upon by the producers may be several more standard deviations from how it was intended to sound (good or bad).
 

watchnerd

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It's less about the technical capability of the microphone and more about the fact that it doesn't "hear" the way our brain does. The "post processing" .
Microphones are flawed transducers in their own right.

Hence all the artistry involved in mic selection for recordings -- to get the one with right "flavor" and polar patterns.
 

Sal1950

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You come here and say you don't like my speakers. I admit they aren't for everyone. But for what I'm looking for, I couldn't find anything as satisfactory. I certainly would never claim that they are the bees knees. They work for me. I'm the one that's living with them.
Don't let a couple comments get your nose out of joint, I owned La Scala's for 32 years and never would have sold them if they would have fit in my retirement digs. Incredible speakers that do so many things right once you get used to them it's hard to live with anything else. I'm sure your aware of Stereophiles review of them in 2006, Sam fell in love.
http://www.soundhifi.com/klipsch/sam.htm
The Klipsch sound has been the recent rage at Stereophile in general so many preconceptions are changing. We have many horn lovers here, including a few M2 owners and other JBL horns.
Don't know anything about your room but have you tried getting them out of the corners and well into the room? Yes corner placement will help the somewhat weak bass (we both use subs for that) but I kept mine about 5' out and 2+' off the side walls. When aimed at the MLP the imaging was better than anything I've heard. Just something you might try?
Like has been said, I know of no speaker type that doesn't have it's weaknesses, you buy your ticket and take your ride.
 

Sal1950

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Aside from wave guides (are they horns?) on JBLs,
Yep, they are, but it's more PC to call them "wave guides". How about the Genelec's?
 

watchnerd

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Yep, they are, but it's more PC to call them "wave guides". How about the Genelec's?
Sure, them, too.

But some of the wave guides are attached to a dome tweeter, as opposed to a compression driver (all the Genelecs I've seen, LSR 3-series JBLs, for example) and they're certainly shallower than a big Tractrix horn....so I don't think it's strictly just PC/branding.
 
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Blumlein 88

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I have ignored horns for many years. When in the UK I visited the Bristol hifi show many times. This could well be a generalisation, but all the horns I heard there (I don't remember what examples they were) left me cold as they seemed so spectacularly coloured. I wonder how much the skewed frequency response they obviously had leads to an impression of being dynamic?

So this has made me over the years ignore them as just a "high end" trend. However as mentioned this was a view formed many years ago and I should re-visit.

Does anyone have any horn measurements to look at?
I don't have the measures done with a TacT Room EQ system. I did however use it on some K-horns, and on some Electro-voice Khorn copies. Letting it do the correction much of the horn honk sound was gone. Nearly all of it. I do think some of the dynamic quality is in an uneven response, but yes they still were very dynamic. As I recall the response was very choppy at the crossover points, and the tweeter almost looked like it had some mild comb filtering going on. The bass actually was impressively even on the K-horns. LaScalas don't match them in that region. The Khorns I measured were in a proper room for them. An old restored home with 12 foot ceilings in a very wide and very long front room with the Khorns properly placed in the corners.
 
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Blumlein 88

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So, name me one loudspeaker that is not colored, or that doesn't have a sonic signature of its own? We are not talking amplifiers here. With any speaker, anyone can find fault. You come here and say you don't like my speakers. I admit they aren't for everyone. But for what I'm looking for, I couldn't find anything as satisfactory. I certainly would never claim that they are the bees knees. They work for me. I'm the one that's living with them.

FWIW, in a living room it's easy to tell speakers apart. All speakers. None of this "sounds quite similar as long as certain conditions" are met. Back in the day, in a large open acoustic space (usually concert hall), AR would demo their speakers against 'live' sound. I think Wharfedale was doing it too, across the pond. In a large acoustic space, compared with one or two instruments, few could really tell them apart. In a living room? No contest. You know exactly that you are listening to a loudspeaker.

Another example. It's said that Japanese audiophiles (in general) have different acoustic expectations than Americans (or Europeans). There's an outfit in Japan that refurbs old JBL monitor speakers. Kenrick Sound. 4343, 4345, etc. Beautiful work. Most Americans, brought up on box speakers, speakers exhibiting their unique characteristic sound, don't care much for them. Not me. I dig it, and would own a pair if I had even more living room space, and could afford the shipping. But I'm sure they don't have the 'spinorama' you're looking for.
Also using the Tact, I once used a Soundlab panel on one channel and a Hales Signature Two on the other. The Hales had a very sturdy box and pretty much none of the boxy sound. I did alter the target curve so neither speaker was beyond matching the other. You would expect the directional differences to be a problem. Far off axis it was possible to hear it. But the center listening position and that general area sounded fine. You wouldn't know you were hearing two different speakers on each channel. Now I was surprised by that. Especially the imaging which seemed fine which is where I thought directional differences and minor mis-matches in response would cause a wandering or weird image, but it didn't. This was in a narrow, but long room listening rather far back into the other end of the room. The room wasn't lively, moderately damped, but not to the level you'd call it dead sounding.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/hales-system-two-loudspeaker-measurements
Measurements done by Stereophile of the Hales back in 1992.
 
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Also using the Tact, I once used a Soundlab panel on one channel and a Hales Signature Two on the other. The Hales had a very sturdy box and pretty much none of the boxy sound. I did alter the target curve so neither speaker was beyond matching the other. You would expect the directional differences to be a problem. Far off axis it was possible to hear it. But the center listening position and that general area sounded fine. You wouldn't know you were hearing two different speakers on each channel. Now I was surprised by that. Especially the imaging which seemed fine which is where I thought directional differences and minor mis-matches in response would cause a wandering or weird image, but it didn't. This was in a narrow, but long room listening rather far back into the other end of the room. The room wasn't lively, moderately damped, but not to the level you'd call it dead sounding.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/hales-system-two-loudspeaker-measurements
Measurements done by Stereophile of the Hales back in 1992.
I wonder if the situation would be different in a wider room with more separation, where dispersion plays more of a role to overall sound and the sound sources are further apart.
 

Xulonn

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The Klipsch sound has been the recent rage at Stereophile in general so many preconceptions are changing. We have many horn lovers here, including a few M2 owners and other JBL horns.
Although not recognized as a true audiophile rig, I drove my custom 16 cubic foot JBL S8 ported speakers back in the days before CDs with a 45wpc McIntosh Mac1900 receiver. Sources were an Empire Troubador 598 turntable plus a Teac (I think) casette deck. That system was very "dynamic" sounding, but the JBL 375 midrange horn was too "shouty" on many recordings. I sold that rig in 1977 during one of my life's financial downturns.

About 25 years later, in 2003, I put together a CD-based system with a 2A3 set driving a pair of 100dB sensitive Klipsch Forte II's with horns for both midrange and tweeter in a big, high ceiling living room and really enjoyed it - more than I remembered enjoying the JBL's. (Klipsch is again offering those speakers as "Forte III's," a third generation version that is included in their "Heritage Series.")

I ended up selling the Forte II's to Charlie Kittleson in Clearlake County in northern California - the guy who published the rag "Vacuum Tube Valley" and who was quite an interesting character. I drove the 70 miles from Sebastopol to deliver them to Charlie in Lakeport, and when I arrived, he was in his funky little office with a friend, looking through a stash of NOS tubes someone had just delivered. The stash had been discovered in a closed old radio/TV repair shop in a small town, I think somewhere up north in a western or mid-western state.

I would likely have kept the Klipsch/2A3 SET system longer had it not been for the death of my partner and the need in 2005 to move when her daughter sold the house. That was followed by a crash of my retirement investments, so I ended up moving into a small apartment. I kept our former dining room system - a Bryston B60R driving a pair of Apogee Cantaurus Ribbon Monitors, and used it as my main system until 2012, at which time I moved to live in Panama as an expat. And of course, ribbons are not horns, but I owned that system for about 14 years, probably the longest period for any system since I got into audio. In spite of the limited vertical dispersion of the 4" ribbons, it was an otherwise excellent system.
 

Sal1950

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I don't have the measures done with a TacT Room EQ system. I did however use it on some K-horns, and on some Electro-voice Khorn copies. Letting it do the correction much of the horn honk sound was gone. Nearly all of it. I do think some of the dynamic quality is in an uneven response, but yes they still were very dynamic. As I recall the response was very choppy at the crossover points, and the tweeter almost looked like it had some mild comb filtering going on. The bass actually was impressively even on the K-horns. LaScalas don't match them in that region. The Khorns I measured were in a proper room for them. An old restored home with 12 foot ceilings in a very wide and very long front room with the Khorns properly placed in the corners.
K-Horn and LaScala's differ mainly in the final size of the mouth of the horn with the K's using room walls for the final fold. When properly placed the K's will supposedly get to 33hz at -4db point. The La Scala's spec to fall off a cliff at 51hz. I used to have crude SPL measurements of mine used to set up the subwoofers but they're long gone now.
They both have just undergone revisions with the LaS getting mainly a new crossover design, now called the AL5.
K-Horns have a resigned bass horn that supposedly doesn't require a hard seal to the corner??? It's curious so far, known as the AK6 it will be interesting to read about when the reviews start. I read in this months Stereophile that they have one coming for review, hope to see JA's battery of measurements for it.
 

Sal1950

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That was followed by a crash of my retirement investments, so I ended up moving into a small apartment.
That's a too familiar story. :(
 
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