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Author Topic: Why (still) horns?  (Read 1248 times)

Jim McKeveny

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Why (still) horns?
« on: May 08, 2021, 01:36:18 PM »

I'm a couple decades into this (alright - really a few decades). and I still get inquiries about designing/building horn bass cabinets. At this point, with stable class D amps ending the grand efficiency chase, and the tapped-horn method better utilizing energy from both sides of a cone, WHY? do people want to chase down the rabbit hole of "classic" folded horns?
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Helge A Bentsen

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2021, 02:00:10 PM »

I'm a couple decades into this (alright - really a few decades). and I still get inquiries about designing/building horn bass cabinets. At this point, with stable class D amps ending the grand efficiency chase, and the tapped-horn method better utilizing energy from both sides of a cone, WHY? do people want to chase down the rabbit hole of "classic" folded horns?

Probably because folded horns is better in the time domain than tapped horns.
I personally don't like the sound of tapped horn because of this, but I can mix a show on them if they are the rig of the day.
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Luke Geis

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2021, 03:05:35 PM »

I think it comes down to the Pro's and Con's of the simplest path that gets you from A to B. We don't have a magic technology yet that fixes the physics problem of having a speaker as the primary source for acoustic excitement.

I think it is said that a speaker is only about 10-15% efficient at converting energy into acoustic output. That is pretty poor performance. lately, the only real solution we have come to is making a speaker that can handle more watts and utilizing more energy to create a little more output.

Designing a tapped horn that isn't a copy of what has already been utilized is an effort in futility. The tapped horn concept has already been conquered I think. It won't get much better until the speakers get better.

I also think we have gotten to a point of comfort in the performance of most touring grade systems. They don't need to get much if any louder than they already are, so the only frontier left is designing a system that has better coverage control, better coherence, and linearity. We don't need speakers capable of producing 150db of output. We need speakers that produce 140db of output in a linear fashion, that sound as good at talking levels as it does at jet-engine levels, and can produce this sound over the desired area.

Amplification is also pretty much solidified. We now have amps that are about 90% efficient at converting wall power into usable wattage for a speaker. The last frontier for amplification is DSP, integration, and channel count power density control at the consumer level.

F.I.R filter technology is actually old hat, it is just the latest greatest thing because we finally have enough DSP power to utilize it effectively. I imagine that there is bound to be new filter technology or method that improves things at lower frequencies for better full range control over phase. Danely is in a way forging that path by designing systems that solve the phase issues at the component level as opposed to in DSP and crossover network domain. Meyer is kind of a hybrid of the two utilizing older filter technology mixed with physical component spacing to achieve linear phase results.

Most of the class A systems don't particularly have better speakers than you and I can purchase from the usual suspects, they just have a much higher grade of scrutiny of the delivered product. The tolerance between each driver is just much better than the typical consumer product. This mixed with a high level of build quality and tolerance for the whole speaker leads to a better end product.

Until a new speaker technology comes out that redefines the rules, I think the only thing we can expect to see is incremental improvements to consumer-grade and pro-sumer grade equipment as more of the current top-tier technology and parts trickle down. Right now what I am seeing is the improvement of smaller speakers being able to produce results similar to much larger speakers. L'Acoustics Kiva II rig comes to mind. It is a dual 6.5" speaker capable of 138db of output... That is a lot of spank in a very small speaker. d&b has a similar performing small PS speaker in their Y series lineup. The shift I am seeing lately is that smaller speakers are becoming MUCH more capable than even some larger ones were not too long ago. I think we will begin to see a decline of 15" speakers in favor of 12" and smaller designs that provide similar levels of overall output with much better linearity and sound quality.

As for subs, I think the end of the road has been found. The last frontier for subs is directional control in smaller formats. I think that it will eventually lead us to designs with smaller drivers in designs that have similar output to current options, but with much greater directivity. d&b is already starting to touch on this idea in several of their lineups ( the Y in particular ) utilizing cardioid technology in a passive box that only requires 1 channel of amplification. Their Y line for instance uses an 18" and a 12" in one option with 134db of output. Not a crazy level of output, but to have some directional control and have that level of output from a single 18"/12" design using only 1 amp channel is very good. Two of them per side would make a very potent rig for most small to medium gigs.
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Helge A Bentsen

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2021, 04:09:16 PM »


Until a new speaker technology comes out that redefines the rules...

That's quite a mountain to climb.
Martin Audio and EAW "broke the line" several years ago with superior performance but haven't got the traction they deserve in the "a"-level game.
MLA and Adaptive can do really superior things in terms of coverage consistency and SQ. Both brands have subs performing at the highest level, on par or better than the rest(depending on your preferred parameter), sadly doesn't seem to have carried over to "rider acceptance" and increased sales.
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Caleb Dueck

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2021, 04:34:34 PM »

Probably because folded horns is better in the time domain than tapped horns.
I personally don't like the sound of tapped horn because of this, but I can mix a show on them if they are the rig of the day.

This is the key reason here.

Also look at the (vastly larger) installation market, where truck pack isn't a concern.  The only real drawback to true horns (size) isn't a huge deal here. 
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Steve-White

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2021, 05:29:31 PM »

This is the key reason here.

Also look at the (vastly larger) installation market, where truck pack isn't a concern.  The only real drawback to true horns (size) isn't a huge deal here.

Yes and yes.

Horns sound like horns, the lowest distortion and cleanest kick you in the chest sound out there - still after all these years.  :)
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2021, 11:07:25 AM »

Technology continues to improve, but the physics has not changed.

JR
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2021, 12:59:41 PM »

That's quite a mountain to climb.
Martin Audio and EAW "broke the line" several years ago with superior performance but haven't got the traction they deserve in the "a"-level game.
MLA and Adaptive can do really superior things in terms of coverage consistency and SQ. Both brands have subs performing at the highest level, on par or better than the rest(depending on your preferred parameter), sadly doesn't seem to have carried over to "rider acceptance" and increased sales.

I got the chance to be part of PA demo/shootout recently, in a room that I have mixed many times. One of the presented options was Martin MLA; which I I was very excited to listen to.

Unfortunately the gents that Martin sent were not able to figure the processing out. The result was a VERY inconsistent sounding PA with coverage problems. Even though Martin had the highest level of box resolution out of any of the brands at the demo it had the most disparity in coverage. There was also a massive 2k hot spot behind the PA (where the stage would be), and this happened with both of their arrays (MLA/WPC).

This is not to say that when well deployed that it is not a fantastic sounding box/array, and that it cannot behave; however if the brand has trouble getting the processing there I would imagine tour companies may have an even more difficult time managing that.

I am very excited about some of things that can be done; however if it cannot be successfully deployed, that is problematic. This anecdote is not a dig at Martin; poor deployment happens I get it; I am simply stating that more complex does not always lead to better results irrespective of the brand.

I would love to see training, prep, planning, knowledge, education, and the execution of a deployment to mitigate these issues.


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Steve-White

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2021, 01:15:44 PM »

^^^ I was talking to an Ashly rep earlier this week regarding health check on some used processors I picked up and as a matter of routine sent them in for a full health checkup.

The discussion then turned to array processing methodology and he told me of one venue (unnamed) in Las Vegas where they pulled in literally as the JBL traveling roadshow bus was leaving.  JBL had sent reps out to setup and tune a system.  He said it took them a little over an hour to straighten it out and get it sounding right.

Not bashing JBL here, have used their gear for a long time and currently have a JBL system - FOH. Monitors, Subs.  Like anything from roofing shingles, to automotive maintenance to pro audio - it's all about workmanship.  It only sounds as good as the engineer.
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MikeHarris

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Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2021, 01:16:19 PM »

Yes and yes.

Horns sound like horns, the lowest distortion and cleanest kick you in the chest sound out there - still after all these years.  :)
YES & YES
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Why (still) horns?
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2021, 01:16:19 PM »


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