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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Yesterday I was talking with a group of speaker designers and audio engineers. They had worked in companies like Allison, Acoustics research and had designed speakers like IC-20 (from Allison). I had asked the same question to them. According to them the improvements have not been much in the spund quality. Speaker being a mechanical device, they were pretty mature 30 years back. However introduction of wave guide has improved dispersion. Characteristics of tweeters. In addition there have been improvements in testing and reliability. The cost has also come down somewhat although there is more hype now than 30 years back and most of the hype is not based on speaker quality improvements but edorsement from paid review magazines like Stereophile, what HiFi and others. In these reviews, reviewer almost provide measurement that show significant improvement over other speakers but says that these speakers were the best he had ever heard and gives them 5 stars.

I would like to hear what you guys abd gals think. Do you hear much quality improvements from PSB, KEF, etc over the last few years.
 

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Yesterday I was talking with a group of speaker designers and audio engineers. They had worked in companies like Allison, Acoustics research and had designed speakers like IC-20 (from Allison). I had asked the same question to them. According to them the improvements have not been much in the spund quality. Speaker being a mechanical device, they were pretty mature 30 years back. However introduction of wave guide has improved dispersion. Characteristics of tweeters. In addition there have been improvements in testing and reliability. The cost has also come down somewhat although there is more hype now than 30 years back and most of the hype is not based on speaker quality improvements but edorsement from paid review magazines like Stereophile, what HiFi and others. In these reviews, reviewer almost provide measurement that show significant improvement over other speakers but says that these speakers were the best he had ever heard and gives them 5 stars.

I would like to hear what you guys abd gals think. Do you hear much quality improvements from PSB, KEF, etc over the last few years.
I currently have a mix of DIY, and 20+ year old speakers, and i think they sound as good if not better than the speakers i have heard made in the last 5 years. I agree with the statement that there has not been much improvements... IMO they are just doing little tweaks in general to refine or alter the sound.
 

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Hi,
This is my first post here. I think subwoofers have made a huge improvement over the last decade or decade and a half. You can now get a much more powerful bass out of smaller drivers, with absurd power handling (compared to older subs). Peak to peak excursion compared to car pistons (j/k). And enclosure size shrinking too. I agree with the shkumar4963 though, enclosure and drivers are still pretty much the same as grandpa's speakers, other than costs and build/consistency quality.

Thanks :)
Claudio
 

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Agreed, Subwoofer design has improved dramatically but only because there is a need to. Before 1995 there were no movie soundtracks that required a sub for home use to go below 25Hz these days if it doesn't hit 15Hz you're not getting close to the soundtracks capabilities.
Speaker sound quality has not evolved much at all simply because "if it aint broke dont fix it" My EVs from 1985 sound just as good as speakers costing thousands today.
 

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I think I agree with the posts above, no huge improvement in speaker design but lots of other technological stuff that may or may not improve the sound but likely improve reliability; wave guides, dampening materials, computer optimized crossovers, Beryllium, aluminum, Kapton, Nomex, some synthetic materials etc.
 

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What is interesting is that the proliferation of online research, endorsements/reviews and sales has shifted the market in a direction where great sound is now affordable. There are many great offerings and startups I dont think would have been possible even 10 years ago. But with all the online goodness comes a lot of badness for the hifi shops where an "audio life" changing experience awaits. High end is hurting now more than ever.
 

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What I find interesting is the fairly recent trend toward narrow baffle designs (well it fits within the last 30 years). Wonder how much of that is for aesthetics? My understanding is it improves imaging but not much else, sounds like we'd be better off with the big old fashioned wide baffle speakers... or would we?
 

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I think the reason is aesthetic. A trick of the eye maybe? I feel like personally the imaging thing is possibly sight induced. The effects of diffraction from a wide baffle can be fixed with good waveguides/tweeter bezels, and phase plugs. Long live monkey coffins!!!
 

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The sound of box speakers has certainly plateaued. I heard the Linkwitz Orions a few years ago and they are in a different class. Mainstream manufacturers should explore more options and stop just fine tuning the monkey coffins.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I feel bad for speaker manufacturers. Think about it. You are in an industry that has matured and further improvements in sound quality are minimal. And most people listen to their music using a headphone and an iphone.

On top of that old speakers don't easily die requiring owners to purchase new ones. And this creates a healthy supply of used but perfectly good speakers. So how to increase sales and profits in this market?

The only way to increase sales now is to go for aesthetic improvements and marketing led demand generaton. Marketing costs money so speakers prices need to be raised. So they need to spend money on paid reviews like in Stereophile and others and then maintain high prices to project high quality. One outcome of this strategy is the popularity of small online speaker manufactures and DIY kits that produce speakers or very similar quality (without the looks and the brand name) as more expensive speakers. They don't have money to pay Stereophile but many forums talk about these speakers as having similar or better quality than speakers reviewed by Stereophile. They often offer home trials so that customers can see for themselves.

Aesthetics is also driving towards small size thus popularity of book shelf and satellite speakers. Narrow speakers are also to address aesthetics.

Other outcome of this situation is that companies are offering stands, cables, conditioners and other accessories that do not make any difference in sound quality at exorbitant margins. Stands that cost 20 dollars to make are selling at $400 dollars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
One area where I feel significant progress will be made will be in active speakers.

Here is why I think so.

Passive cross overs are a big cause of discontinuities in a speaker. That is why it is hard to make more than 3 way speakers sound better. With class D amplifiers improving in quality and drastic reduction in their prices, it is now possible to use separate amps for each speaker driver and then use DSP based cross overs to seperate signal to each driver before amplification.

This will remove phase shift problems, power inefficiencies of xovers, and allow us to customize drivers for narrow frequency bands thus creating. better drivers.

Room correction using DSP will be a free option for these speakers.
 

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When it came time to replace my old Pioneer HPM 100's (bought in 1979 ish) I was very surprised how much I had to spend to get equal/marginally better sound quality.
Maybe if inflation is taken into account its the same but I was still very surprised by the $$.
 

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The sound of box speakers has certainly plateaued. I heard the Linkwitz Orions a few years ago and they are in a different class. Mainstream manufacturers should explore more options and stop just fine tuning the monkey coffins.
they look amazing to me. I'd love to see what they can do. They're almost Picasso-esque. Exactly why I think most WAF 's would take a .50 cal to them. Personally I feel the best compromise comes from cabs with tapered sides. This helps alleviate the standing wave problem, and the box sound to a point. Very slenderizing too! Lol
 

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I think the difference is in what we expect them to do no as compared to then. I had some Bose 901 hanging from chains in the ceiling listen to Frank Zappa on an LP (and not a Fancy player, Technics with the strobie platter...:) ). And it sounded super because we weren't expecting 20-20khz out of the setup. Now with digital age, that same setup would sound Horrid. I think the speakers have evolved with the source material
 

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I find that there are many many more very high quality speakers and drivers available these days compared to several decades ago. Are the very best better? Probably not as much so as the difference in sound quality at lower price ranges.
 

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My mains are from 1978. Can't find any today that sound as good that I care to pay for.:spend: As for the narrow baffle designs they've led to improvements in X-over design to compensate for baffle stop loss. I learned more about that when I built the Zaphs that I gave to my son.
 

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Just within the last decade or so, advancements in computer aided design for motors, crossovers and cabinets, and measurements such as Klippel have helped drop loudspeaker distortions significantly.
 

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I've not yet found a replacement for my 12 year old KEFs that sounds significantly better.

I have the impression that todays speakers sound different, and I suspect that's because our sources and formats are different (HQ downloads at one end, mp3 at the other)
 
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