Originally Posted by tuxedocivic
So then why so much positive subjective feedback from ribbons in general?
And I'm not disagreeing with you, I've personally never gotten to excited about ribbons.
That's a fair question. My opinion is that there are two primary reasons. First, they're rarer and thus look more exotic than domes. We all know how much visuals drive perception of sound. For that matter, it's fairly common for a speaker marketer using an allegedly magic part to hype up that frequency range so that people ooh and aah over the sound of that part. See, e.g. Lansche and Acapella speakers with plasma tweeters and hyped-up treble. Second, ribbons often sound different, because of their different polars compared to a symmetrical driver, high midrange distortion/lower overload point (compared to a standard driver of the same surface area, because of a ribbon's small excursion), and the diffraction issues.
To be sure, I have no experience with the Raals, the foil flavor of the month, either listening (to my knowledge) or actually using them. One reason I have not bothered with Raal is that I have wasted money on previous fetish-foils from Raven and LCY, both of which had similar levels of hype in their day. An awful lot of money in the case of the Ravens, though it is the LCY that stands as the single worst-performing tweeter I've ever used or heard at any price. I've also heard ribbons from Expolinear in Berlin (including one they've sold since at least the late 1990s that CSS recently picked up on this side of the Atlantic), Philips, Monitor Audio, Magnepan, Apogee, and others in setups otherwise unfamiliar to me.
The common thread in my experiences with ribbon tweeters has been an edge to the treble and listening fatigue over time on orchestral recordings. Not at all unlike the sound of a PA or movie system with diffraction slot horn tweeters, really. Which makes sense considering that a ribbon is about the highest possible diffraction type of tweeter. Perhaps the irony is that for certain genres of live, amplified music that kind of coloration is in fact more realistic than the more natural presentation of a diaphragm that's not wiggling in a diffraction slot. But it's not for me.
Though the Raal dude is irrationally opposed to providing public data about his product, and uses NDAs to keep data private, the available third-party data do show his parts to be excellent devices if used within fairly severe constraints. Perhaps the foam lips do in fact mitigate some of the vertical issues compared to other ribbons of the same length, so it may be better there. Still, the Raal seems to require a very small midrange and special attention to cabinet diffraction to compensate for its wide horizontal coverage. A good example of a speaker that seems to optimally employ a limited-application part like the Raal is Dennis Murphy's Philharmonic Audio 3, with its narrow planar midrange and MF/HF cabinet shaped to minimize diffraction. True, one could fairly argue that the same applies to any speaker using a narrow element for the tweeter on a 180º waveguide, such as a 19-30mm dome tweeter.
Originally Posted by Martycool007
Regarding the ribbons and their treble SQ, I have yet to listen to a bookshelf speaker of any brand or price that has remotely similar SQ in the top end compared to my RAAL equipped Sierra-1's.
I'm not doubting your perception, just your attribution of it. Magic parts have their place in marketing, largely because they allow higher markup, but actual performance usually comes from design.
Originally Posted by Martycool007
I can't explain it, but in a properly treated/setup listening environment the RAAL is truly amazing.
You completely lost me there. The phrase I use for any speaker that requires severe room mutilation to sound good are "inappropriate speaker for that room" or just plain "bad speaker." If a listener perceives a speaker to need such treatment, that's usually a sign the speaker has poor polars. Considering that this particular vender happily markets very low-performance speakers such as the one measured below, skepticism is well justified here!Source: Princeton Univ. 3D3A Lab.
In looking for your speaker, I found this old thread on an Ascend forum.
Here, in particular, was an "ah ha!" comment from Curtis.
"I didn't lke the tonal quality of the Kef 201/2's as much as the others. I thought at times the highs or upper mids did not sound right at time...maybe over emphasized. They do have LF and HF adjustments on them, but we left them stock. They did seem to image the best of the group."
Why did the Ref 201/2, the best small speaker I've yet heard, get marked down compared to the lesser designs, in precisely the area where measurements prove it overwhelmingly superior (smooth upper midrange/lower treble polars vs. midrange mushroom clouds) to everything else auditioned? Possibly because the listeners saw speakers they knew and thought were good, that all were similar, and this one sounded different because it was better. IOW, they were acclimated to poor performance, and excellence sounded wrong.
True I haven't heard all of the speakers they compared. But a good friend owned the Usher Tiny Dancers, and I do not have a positive impression of them. Funny thing is, after a blind listening test he sold them and uses KEF 3005 eggs atop bass bins. Kind of a lower-output variant of the old Waveform
speakers. The sound in his living room considerably improved as a result of replacing a badly-optimized expensive speaker with a well-optimized inexpensive speaker.
The lesson for you here, IMO, is to spend a good bit of time listening to your SEOS-based speakers* before judging them, and don't judge them until you go back to your other speakers for a confirmation listen first. Chances are at first the SEOS will sound a bit boring to you, and perhaps off in the midrange. And maybe lighten up on the room mutiliation when you're trying them out. Good speakers do not require heroic measures to deliver excellent sound. Quite the opposite: room mutiliation generally hurts more than it helps if the speakers are competently designed.
*I haven't followed which design you've picked, but there is generally a much higher level of design competence in the SEOS kits offered than in prefab commercial home loudspeakers.Edited by DS-21 - 2/12/14 at 11:20am