The Speaker Guru speaks: Andy Graddon

1. Without giving the standard "weakest link" answer, how important would you rate speakers as component?
Speakers and their environment have long been considered the “weak link’ of a sound system. Certainly there are a lot of bad speakers out their that this applies to. However, as the facility to design speakers becomes greater, and drivers in general become better designed and we have a better understanding of what is actually happening, the gap should be narrowing. System synergy, they way the bits (including the environment) work together is all important. Any one bad facet can ruin an otherwise good system.

2. How have speakers changed in the past 25 years?
With speaker design software etc. there is really no excuse for a bad speaker especially from commercial producers, yet . . . ;-)

3. Do we have to spend a lot on woofers and tweeters to get good sound?
Good sound can be achieved using good drivers IF care is taken and they are designed well. It is still quite likely that to get the best sound sound requires the best drivers. Not having the funds to investigate this . . .

4. What are the top three design parameters you use?
Overall natural and open sound, dynamics etc. nothing worse than a speaker that has had the dynamics sucked out of it!

5. Do you design on measurement or sound?
Not having bothered with measuring equipment, maybe I'll get around to it some day!

6. What to you think is that "special something" is that makes some speakers sound so good?
The way it delivers those special nuances on a vocal, sax, guitar etc., the difference between reality and just making the sounds!

7. What are your speaker audition strong points and weak points, i.e.., what problems do you find most difficult to pick up in listening tests?
Listening requires more than a brief time. You have to know how the speakers work in the long term. It is my belief that only in the longer term will special attributes of a speaker become obvious (hence my total non-acceptance of ABX tests)

8. Do you have a theory on crossovers or use whatever seems to work?
I think that the x-o is dependent on the drivers used. I spent sooooo much time selecting drivers I think will work with simple 1st order series that I can tune by ear. If you want to use metal cones etc. you have to be prepared to spend all the necessary funds for the measuring gear and have the time to learn to use it and related design software VERY WELL. The x-o of necessity will be far more complex. On this point, I think it is a very bad idea to over-engineer a crossover, i.e. if a driver can be used with a simple x-o, don't use a complex one, every component subtracts something!

9. Do we over stress the bottom octave and area above 20K Hz?
20Hz is useful for HT , organ music etc., but if you don't generally listen to this sort of music and have a sub for HT then I wonder if the extra expense is worth it.

10. What one piece of advice would you give every new speaker builder?
Learn the basics first. If you just want to build, do a kit. If you want to design, start with a simple 2-way and work forward from there... and please.... NO MORE RECTANGULAR BOXES! ;-)

11. When you get cornered at a party by a speaker builder, what is the question they ask most often?
Party, what’s that?

12. Will we ever find the Holy Grail in sound reproduction?
The Holy Grail is something you are satisfied with, until you get the next injection of funds!

13. So, which is it, tubes or SS?
I like my Dynacos, when they are actually functioning :-(

14. What does the future hold for speaker design?
Where is my crystal ball? A comment on DSP which may not ingratiate me with others! Its just another cross-over technique, you still have to know how to design with it, and I very much doubt that that learning curve is any less steep.

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Copyright Peter Jay Smith 2005 Return to