I'm new to the AVS community and thought it fitting that my first post would be related to my most recent HT upgrade. I've been cobbling together my "Man Cave" for over 6 years now, since my kids grew out of the basement playroom. I've done it all on a budget using equipment I've purchased through constant trolling on Kijijji, thrift stores and garage sales. Consequently, I have owned and incorporated a wide variety of speakers into my system including Polk, Mission, Angstrom, RW Oliver, Foster and Vandersteen Audio. I have most recently installed 5 - 8" Audio Nirvana full range drivers (FRD), well two are actually coax, and am "soundly" converted to full range drivers for audio and HT.
They are not for everyone, and I've noted that FRD's tend to be slammed as a poor choice for HT and are more often touted as more of an esoteric or "old school" audiophile technology. I ventured into the world of FRD when trying to build an affordable Center Channel that would match the performance of my previous mains, a pair of Vandersteen Audio Model 2 Ce's; award winning audiophile speakers in their own right. When I purchased an 8" Coax driver from David Dicks of Common Sense Audio, he warned me that I'd be selling my VA's shortly, which I expected was a somewhat bold over statement. He turned out to be correct.
As I said, they aren't for everyone. You need some EQ and an exceptional LFE system, but I would venture to say it is highly unlikely that anyone capable of building their own cabs would be able to surpass the sound field imaging and point source coherence of single drivers without spending at least 2 - 3X the cash.
I won't belabour my first post with excessive details, however, if there is enough interest in the topic, I'll describe my experience and look forward to hearing what others' experiences and thoughts on FRDs have been.
I have just recently finished building my own set of speakers using full range drivers. Except I used 4 x 3" drivers.
I use the bass management of an AVR to cross them over to subs at 160hz. So my system is now all active digital crossover with no passive crossovers. There is just something special about having a full range driver connected directly to the amp with no circuitry in between or the signal getting split into various drivers and then hoping everything re-combines well again.
It is such a simple way to build a set of speakers and I swear they sound better than all of my other quite expensive commercial speakers. I wish I discovered this way of doing it years ago.
You've just got to look how popular the full range driver section is over on diyAudio to realise it isn't such a mad idea at all.
Thanks for your response.
I don't necessarily agree with the comment, but certainly understand why that is a prevalent view. I certainly don't want to imply that FRD are better than multidriver systems, but rather that in my system, a pair of drivers that cost me $360.00 USD, in cabinets that cost me less than $100.00 to build, sound better than exceptionally a well designed 4 way system from Vandersteen Audio that currently cost $2400.00 USD! I think that checking out reviews on the VA II's would tell you plenty about just how good these speakers sound. And I will also admit that with the a/b comparison's I've made, it has not been a glaringly obvious difference, however, most people that have heard both switched a/b have agreed that the FRD have better dynamics, detail, imaging and phase coherence; this includes musicians. David Vandersteen goes a long way to design and build speakers that are time and phase coherent, so these are pretty significant speakers to be using as a reference.
Sound preference is exceptionally subjective, and the AN drivers are not without shortcomings, so I'll repeat that they aren't for everyone. In fact, perhaps aren't for most, however, I hope to continue posting info extolling both the virtues and challenges of designing and setting up a system using FRD for those who might be interested.
And I will also admit that with the a/b comparison's I've made, it has not been a glaringly obvious difference, however, most people that have heard both switched a/b have agreed that the FRD have better dynamics, detail, imaging and phase coherence; this includes musicians.
BTW... my agreement was with you... not with FMW.
I own a various collection of popular speakers from the likes of Monitor Audio, PSB, Dynaudio... but the detail and soundstaging I am getting from these speakers I have built myself for a fraction of the cost makes them my favourite to date.
DSC_3486.jpg 76k .jpg file "Chur bro" Kiwi!
Those are some pretty looking line arrays you have.
My monstrous 5.6 Cu ft Onken enclosures are ugly as sin, but I keep them hidden behind an acoustically transparent screen. The bottom end is handled through 4-18" Foster (Parent company to Fostex) drivers in an infinite baffle system. They are set up in two manifolds which also serve as bases for the mains and are more or less physically time aligned with the L-C-R speakers. I expected to cross them over at a higher frequency, given the rather steep roll off below 100 hz with these drivers, however, in the large Onken enclosures, they extend quite well below 40 hz with some judicious EQ. Certainly, the AN drivers are much faster and have tighter bass definition than the subs. Therefore, I get the best sound with them crossed over at 40 hz. That keeps enough LF info out of the signal to prevent bottoming out these relatively low excursion drivers. Plus, this preserves stereo and multichannel imaging of program content with low bass that isn't mixed into all the channels equally, as is the norm for most recordings. For example, a jazz recording miked with a single stereo capsule will place the stand up bass where the musician was standing relative to the mike.
Then just yesterday I came across this page with a guy using the same drivers I am using. And interestingly enough he has ended up with a 150hz crossover using a AVR and with subs located on either side of him. Practically identical configurations.
Yeah Kiwi. Gotta love those Tangbands!
I think that a higher crossover point is essential with a micromonitor if you want any weight behind the mid bass; however, for larger drivers and cabs, I feel that the cross over point should stay as far away from the human voice range as possible. Although you may Google that range to be somewhere around 300 hz to 3400, there are harmonics from the chest that drop well below 300, and sibilants, (literally meaning whistling and hissing sounds from the tongue and teeth) that reach well into 8000 hz range. Consequently, the most useful reference sounds for choosing crossover points should be the sound of the human voice in speech. The reason being, every human being has an innate, reliable reference "sense" for how a male, female, or child's voice should sound. Typically however, when we humans tweak and tune settings, we use reference music, or worse, tone generators; yours truly being guilty! I certainly like to hear a bass guitar stand out from the mix, so a higher cross over points sounds much more authoritative, with 4 X 18" drivers moving all that air! No doubt a single 3" driver would struggle to be able to share any of the band pass below 100, even in a small computer den, and yet be able reproduce realistic drum harmonics. But when I listen to dialogue, even the 80 hz THX reference point betrays an artificial wooly note to the male voice. This isn't as noticeable with singing, because how it should sound not as deeply ingrained in our auditory memory as every day dialogue.
I recommend you try this with your towers and let me know what you think. Use lots of different source material. It is also a useful way of adjusting subwoofer gain. You should never hear that old FM radio "chest note" standing out; if so, turn down the sub gain, and or, turn down the Xover point. If you can get a natural sound at 160 hz, then you have great sub integration!
It's no surprise that my pursuit of a decent center channel is what led me to choose large diaphragm, full range drivers. I went through no less than 6 CCs trying to rise to the task of talking and singing as well as my Vandersteen Audio's did. Then when I built my first Audio Nirvana CC, I found the VA's suddenly sounding just a touch woolly in the mid bass. But, as I stated up front in the initial post, their not for everyone. Who would want 3 to 6 cubic foot boxes on or under their TVs!!!! But for those with acoustically transparent projection screens, or building high end dedicated rooms, I believe that well designed, matching FRDs in an acoustically treated room can create seamless HT sound fields that are simply jaw dropping.
I will certainly do some more testing with crossover points next weekend with both measurements and plenty of listening. Indeed getting a voice sounding nice is important to me as well. One other particular set of speakers I own does very well on male voices giving them good depth and authority but on female vocals they seem a bit lacking on detail and nuance of their vocals. Whereas another set of speakers I own do very well with female vocals yet male vocals don't have the depth and sound a bit too bright and lightweight. I really want one set of speakers to do both male and female vocals justice.
This discussion had me playing around with the crossover point this weekend. I watched Valkyrie again, which has both plenty of dialogue and LFE info. I watched the entire opening battle scene at 40 hz and 150 hz (the lowest and highest Xover points with my receiver). Without question, 40 hz sounded better. What surprised me, is that I really couldn't discern a drop in low bass impact at the lower Xover point. Given the AN drivers have an Xmax of 1 cm, I expected they'd protest. Mind you, I have a relatively small room at 12ft W X 20ft L X 8ft H. Also, I didn't push for reference level, but was getting 100 db plus during explosions and flybys. I love loud, but any higher than this in my room gets uncomfortable for everyone in the house!
After playing around with Xover during dialogue scenes, I decided to bump the Xover point up to 60hz as an added step to protect my AN's from over excursion. I certainly don't need the extra headroom for my HT receiver, as these drivers are so efficient that there is no audible improvement in sound quality from the main drivers at higher Xover points, such as the typical lack of strain that is often heard when a sub is added to full range speakers. This was not the case when I was using my VA's as mains. In fact, I found the best cross over point was 100 hz, otherwise the mass loaded 10" driver used in the Model II would audibly rattle during loud passes with lots of bass info. This resulted in a marked improvement in headroom from my main amp, which used to run so hot with my previous set up, that it wasn't unusual for it to shut down during the loudest passages when pushed to near reference levels. I also had to place a large CPU cooling fan on top of the receiver to better cool the sinks, and still couldn't keep my hands on the top of the receiver after a few hours of hard work. Now, I can't feel any heat at all! And that is another of the major pluses of FRD; no cross overs! Inductors and resisters sap current and hurt sound no matter how well designed or high the quality of components. Not to mention phase and time anomalies inherent in all multidriver speaker systems.
Few designers put more thought and effort into addressing cross over problems than Richard Vandersteen (think I called him David in my first post), but I can tell you from experience that the Model IIs suffered from some problems that were most noticeable when walking around in the listening environment. As you move through the listening environment, you'll walk through all sorts of nodes where room induced modes, and driver/crossover phase dips and rises interact. This "comb filtering" problem is why VA designed and produced only co-axial CC's. After designing and building a coax CC using Vifa and Seas drivers (long story), I found that every listening spot gets a rock solid and consistent sound, save the most extreme angles. Having said that, FRD's tend to suffer from "beaming" on axis, as do coax drivers, however, in a dedicated HT, this is easily resolved by aiming all the drivers just above head level of seated listeners.
I can go on and on about how well these VA perform with music and movies. They are fast enough to have reviewers compare them to electrostats, yet have point source imaging. Speech intelligibility makes dialogue so much more intelligible, even peripheral shouts in chaotic battle scenes are clearly made out. Gun shots are intensely startling, and sound effects are utterly convincing. A Harley Davidson riding through the scene sounds visceral, yet stable and seamless from left to right, or front to back. Voices don't shift in timber from one driver to the next, and even my cats get unnerved by the sound of a stranger in the room! Considering that one can set up an entire 5.1 or 7.1 system for the cost of a good pair of full range speakers, the other challenges of using FRDs tend to pale in MHO.
Anyways, very happy with how they are sounding and at least I have also gotten the in room frequency response to blend very nicely between the speakers and subs...
Ultimately, it's what sounds best to your ears. The less time spent playing with equipment, the more time we can spend enjoying it!!!! ;)
I'm curious about your subs. They must be pretty fast and musical to compliment such little drivers. I also wonder if smaller FLR's might not suffer from slightly higher intermodulation distortion, given the higher Xmas necessary. That might in part account for the much improved performance at a higher cross over levels. Less cone travel = less doppler effect in the treble and midrange. I can certainly hear slight compression of detail with my Audio Nirvanas and dynamics when playing music with sub 30 hz bass if playing without subs at volume. The 1mm Xmax of the AN drivers is reached, without any obvious over excursion or noise, but the noted compression becomes just perceivable in more complex music. This is mostly resolved with the sub in or volume down, and inaudible in some music and most movie sound tracks, but compression or not, they produce much tighter, quicker and musical bass than my subs can, so crossing over at 60hz seemed to be the best compromise to my ears. David Dicks builds FRDs that are up to 15" and he claims to build them for better treble and mid-range, not bass. I assume far less cone movement is required to achieve adequate bass output, so less IM distortion, less compression and better dynamics and bass extension are the fringe benefit of larger cones. Seems counter intuitive, but I've come to trust his opinion!
A guy at Zaph Audio has done a lot of measurements on all sorts of drivers and had this to say about my chosen Hi-Vi B3S's... www.zaphaudio.com/smalltest/ (2nd last driver on that list)
"Comments: Pretty good midrange performance, especially considering the price. Very smooth response, with a minor 8kHz breakup. Below 130hz, bass turns to thick mud. *Do Not* run this speaker without some sort of subwoofer crossover, preferably active at 150hz LR4. You might be able to cross at 100hz LR4 if you can trade a little distortion and output for subwoofer localization. This driver can run without a tweeter, but will sound better with a notch filter and a small amount of baffle step compensation."
He also mentioned on this page... www.zaphaudio.com/audio-speaker18.html....
"This speaker requires a subwoofer and a proper subwoofer crossover. Like all other 3" drivers, this speaker has serious harmonic distortion below 100hz. When running this system full range, the bass will sound thick, muddy and too heavy. It's not the driver's high Qts doing this, nor is it the choice of baffle step compensation. It's the 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion. When you play an 80hz tone through these, you also get a loud dose of 160hz and 240hz. Don't make the mistake of thinking more bass is better bass, particularly when "more" comes in the form harmonic distortion. This design has terrible bass distortion and should not be run full range. Period. You owe it to yourself to learn the sound of distorted bass. Run these full range, then take a listen with a good sub and a proper sub crossover. The difference will blow your mind, and then you'll understand what good bass really is."
And sure enough when I did my own measurements with a 83hz tone I got this...
My AVR doesn't have adjustable slope and I think it only has a shallow 12 dB octave slope so I have had to keep the crossover on the high side to try and keep lower frequencies away from the 3" drivers.
But apart from this compromise everything is sounding very good and musical and more enjoyable than some $2k and $3k USD speakers I also own.