Speakers - Delivering the Whole Musical Experience
There are many people either entering the atmospheric world of playing records with the current technology of tonearm and turntable advancement bringing their vinyl to life. Some may be adding that to an inherited hifi system or a simple music system or even a portable active speaker. Whilst they are achieving the goal of playing their records there is much missing from the true experience that is the complete analogue sound of vinyl that envelops the listener in sweet detailed performance.
A key to delivering the whole experience is the quality of the speakers that are being used. As with turntables we have come a long way over the last few years in the design and materials used in creating speakers that do bring the music to life. Speaker designers that have previously specialised in the creation of speakers that are recognised as some of the best in the world and well out of most peoples realms of affordability are finding new challenges in designing affordable speakers that use some of the technologies discovered in the research and development of the high-end speaker designs.These technologies include speaker cabinet design, speaker cone materials and dispersion design to enhance the soundstage.
Through computer modelling and research and development of reference level speakers cabinet design in affordable speakers has evolved substantially, reducing resonances that interfere with clarity and improve the definition and stereo imaging that previously downgraded the sound performance.Also the use of higher density MDF replacing essentially what is otherwise known as chipboard has improved speaker cabinet rigidity with more of the sound energy being directed into the dynamics of the music being reproduced and not wasted in cabinet resonance.Some speaker brands such as Bowers and Wilkins are even isolating their tweeter speaker units in a separated sealed enclosure either within the speaker cabinet or attached as a separate enclosure to ensure minimum interference with the treble high frequencies and of course greater clarity.
There have been substantial improvements in Bass/ Mid speaker driver materials. Some examples of the use of new technologies include Klipschs use of Copper Cerametallic drivers in their very affordable Reference Series. Cerametallic woofers are made from an extremely light rigid material that holds its shape whilst delivering powerful bass with maximum efficiency.Then there is Bowers and Wilkins with the incorporation of their "State of the Art" Continuum material in their 600 and 700 Series speakers that was developed for their 800 Monitor Series as used in the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.Previously, we would not have seen this technology being brought down the family tree so quickly.
While Andrew Jones of Elac admits it is great to design $80,000 speakers, and is very happy to find that it is largely the music enthusiasts who buy them, these designs reach only a few people. By carefully planning the materials and strategy to achieve a more obtainable price point, his designs can benefit a far broader audience.His design of the Debut Series including the Aramid Fibre weave Mid/Bass driver cone material has allowed bass extension in bookshelf speakers not previously seen at these price points before. Then we have Focal from France and their Flax Mid/Bass driver designs that start in the Aria Series and are taken right up to their Kanta Series which are a true new expression of higher end design. The Aria Series start in an affordable price range that will bring you a long term magical music experience.
Then there is tweeter or treble driver design and materials.Using the same reference points famous speaker companies are digging deep and bringing their best to the table with cost efficiency as a priority. Starting again with Klipsch we are presented with their current Traktrix Horn tweeter developed from their 70 years of development of Horn loaded drivers that delivered amazing efficiency and dispersion to improve the clarity and stereo soundstage, thus increasing our musical involvement. Again Bowers and Wilkins with their separate isolated decoupled double dome tweeter providing clear treble detail with a depth of detail not clouded by bass vibration disruption.
Elacs technologies go from cleverly doped cloth based tweeters through dual concentric 3 way designs to enhance musical dimension to ribbon tweeters in their Explore speakers that have received accolades for their fast transient response and life-like delivery of all of the detail that brings musical presence.Focal have turned to sophisticated alumininium materials through to ultra rare and expensive Beryllium to deliver realism.
So what does all this science and development mean in comparison to where we have been? We have come a long way from paper and cardboard speaker cones housed in chipboard boxes that meant we had to put up with aesthetically displeasing large boxes in our living space to achieve some sort of a decent sound quality.And then there are the other risks with Dad or Uncles old stereo that may have been treasured in its day but can be nothing short of a potential health hazard going forward.Unfortunately, speakers that have endured many years may not only also become a hazard to themselves but to your amplifier.Without getting technical, the lacquer on the copper voice coils in your speaker drivers deteriorates over time and that are potentials of electrical shorts that may see your amplifier experience an unhappy ending. Even a new amplifier is not under warranty repair if the old speakers short it out.
Vinyl has brought us a true renaissance of experiencing music that creates an emotional experience that can deliberately and peacefully interrupt our busy lives. Fortunately, speaker technology....ultimately the end result..... has also had quantum advances that bring more of the realism of the music to life. In other words, if you want the total experience of what the true analogue essence of playing records can do also consider what your speakers are delivering. Otherwise you may be missing out on the whole experience that you wished for and deserve.
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