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Issue 162    August 2018
The Evolution Of Loudspeakers
Editorial By Alan Sircom


Hi-Fi+ Issue 162 August 2018


  The loudspeaker, perhaps more than any other part of the audio chain, is the device that has undergone perhaps the biggest changes in recent years. The improvements in the technologies and the materials science in cabinet and driver design, plus the sophistication of the measuring tools available to the designer, have all helped to make the loudspeaker – at all price points – arguably better than it has ever been.

And yet, for all that, this is also the time when some of the greatest classics of audio loudspeaker making not only still hold sway, but are making a comeback. We're constantly surprised at just how much more can be extracted from our transducers – be they state-of-the-art, or out-of-the-ark – because of improvements elsewhere in the chain make classic designs of a couple of generations ago show what they were actually capable of, and the results are often extremely impressive. This is why horn loudspeakers that hark back to the earliest days of electrical recording are still current and cogent designs – the esteemed JBL horns designed decades ago sound better than ever hanging off the end of a full Mark Levinson rig, for example. The same holds true of smaller classics like the LS3/5a, brought back from discontinued-driver hell by one small, dedicated company.


Hi-Fi+ Issue 162 August 2018


The great part in all this is the democratization of this process. Good loudspeakers have existed since Rice and Kellogg started writing their classic paper (it was defining the modern dynamic 'cone and dome' loudspeaker, not the recipe for Rice Krispies), but good loudspeakers were intrinsically expensive for their time (our ability to see a 1970 price tag, or a 2018 price tag on a second-hand product from 1970 never seems to relate to an inflation-adjusted 1970 price tag).

What we have now is wider bandwidth in a number of senses. Wider bandwidth in terms of sheer frequency response in the high-end, and a wider bandwidth of competent products, from the distinctly affordable on up. The old days of compromised devices at the lower end of the market are largely gone now; it's all good. More buys you better of course, in particular in terms of wider and flatter frequency response, lower distortion from driver or cabinet, and more dynamic and loudness headroom. But what is both surprising and encouraging is just how much a comparatively small amount of money can buy today. 

We are living in a golden age of audio, if only we could convince more people to try those audio products out... 



Alan Sircom, Editor Hi-Fi+



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