How To IdentifyAudio SpeakersThat Have The MostFlexibility & Best Sound Quality
Finding An Ultimate Solution
You ideally should have two types of speakers and optionally use a pair of subwoofers if you’re interested in listening to music and also tracking, mixing, and mastering your own music. Based upon decades of audio experience, I’m now recommending and selling one specific pair of audio speakers made by one manufacturer. These are now the backbone of a really excellent music listening and/or music creation system.
Yes, I can also provide a pair of Neumann KH120 or Neuman KH310 active monitors for those of you who desire to also use a neutral active monitor. The monitors that I’m recommending first (interior photos above) can do both – provide an excellent emotional music listening experience as well as neutral studio monitoring. Consider these and then add a pair of active monitors if you choose to do so. My volume control monitoring solution (highest audio quality) allows for the use of three pairs of speakers (external amps or internal amps) and one pair of active subwoofers all selectable by pushing a single button so why not if that’s your interest.
In reality, all speakers are a compromise and the recommendation I’m making provides the least number of compromises while providing the greatest amount of flexibility long-term. As a result, this is my “desert island” speaker recommendation if you could only own one pair. Their sound quality is superb! The following information will provide you with a glimpse of why I say this and how these speakers fulfill my demanding requirements
EMOTIONALLY ENJOYABLE LISTENING
Your listening speakers should be emotionally enjoyable to use and be of a high efficiency type and your power amplifier ideally should be a tube amplifier that puts out around 9 watts. However, you should be able to use any low watt tube amp with these speakers including the beautiful Triode 45RS 45 tube amp that puts out around 2 w/ch or the Decware 25th Anniversary Edition Model SE84UF025 Super Zen Triode that puts out 2 w/ch. 9 watts per channel will provide you with adequate headroom so your sound quality will be the best at higher volumes and this is the ideal amount of power to use from my experience. Even though 2 w/ch is useable, its not ideal. Consequently, a 300B tube amplifier can provide both adequate headroom and emotional satisfying sound quality and that is my goal. This solution is highly flexible and allows you to listen to most any musical genre using these ideal speakers. They are not fussy to place and will fit into most any room.
THE 1ST WATT & THE REASON TO STAY AS CLOSE TO IT AS IS POSSIBLE
The “guts” of your music is contained in the first watt produced by any power amplifier. Every watt you need thereafter compromises your sound quality. The goal is to get enough power to play music while maintaining adequate headroom in reserve (typically using maybe 20% of your total power while keeping maybe 80% of your power unused except for additional reserve when its needed for loud or dynamic passages). Finding a speaker that will play extremely well with 9 watts of power (i.e. a speaker with high enough efficiency and ease of driving), however, is truly difficult and is the reason I’m sharing my findings here. I’ve found an excellent solution.
“MY PRIOR ADVENTURES & EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE LED TO THIS RECOMMENDATION
I’ve distributed Rethm speakers out of India (high efficiency full range drivers with active incorporated subwoofers) and have built numerous manufacturers single driver speakers into all kinds of cabinets but never found one I liked including any of the really expensive full range drivers. There was always a compromise involved that I couldn’t live with.
With the full range single high efficiency speaker design maybe 40% of my music sounded stellar and maybe 60% played back mediocre to just plain terrible. There were too many favorite albums that didn’t sound good and gradually, I abandoned this direction even though occasionally I would try something different from another manufacture and another full range cabinet design. I found that I couldn’t listen to large scale music and complicated rock concerts became really problematic. So I gave up on full range drivers – all of them – and moved into a safe 90db to 95db speaker range that could play well with 25 w/ch to maybe 100 w/ch.
That of course took me away from using low powered tube amps and placed me squarely in the midst of more powerful solid state systems where finding a really good solid state amp then. became my goal. Toward the end of that journey, I chose the big, hot, 100 lb Pass Labs amplifiers and like those the best. They sounded really dynamic and provided plenty of detail, but they were huge, heavy and were really designed for dedicated audio rooms. They were large and of course, needed really expensive components to accompany them including good “air conditioning” for warm weather use. Even though sound quality was really good, the compromises involved just weren’t going in this direction long-term.
I was never emotionally drawn to my music with this higher powered approach (using reasonable speaker efficiency) no matter how good the detail. Using lesser efficient speakers with even more power made this even worse. Imagine owning a bemoth like a Pass 35 w/ch power amp that easily weighed 100 pounds and became a really serious room heater and then trying something with even more power output. Yes, I did it and found that my detail was superb but music had little “life” left and I could no longer relate to it. Eventually I got out of listening for awhile and just quit trying. This constant chase cost me a huge amount of money and an endless amount of time without ever finding something I liked. I probably spent a good year during which I listened to nothing – nothing at all. However, I love music and even though I’ve had these no music listening periods, I always came back and tried another approach. I knew that there had to be something that would work well and provide most of the requirements I was looking for. So . . . I just kept going and did this over a very long period of time – many decades in fact.
YOU NEED A SUPERB SOUNDING TUBE AMPLIFIER THAT IS “REAL WORLD” AFFORDABLE
Eventually, I built an Elekit 300B 8600S tube amp kit with Lundahl output transformer upgrades, V-Cap CuTf coupling cap upgrades, TKD pot upgrade, Takman resistor upgrades, Audionote tube socket upgrades, etc and was completely sucked back in. This not cheap but is a good real world example of what is available to you. Yes, it requires a bit of effort on your part but why not?
Even though those approximately 9 w./ch provided by this amplifier design allowed me to use my 89 db studio monitor speakers that I had just built (for a Neochrome 65 w/ch solid state amp that I purchased to use with these speakers), I could play everything well but not with enough power to listen to all of my music in other than tiny rooms near field. Complicated music still distorted when played loud enough beyond near-field listening so all of a sudden I was thrown back into the elusive speaker search that I had been on for a very long time. I like the sound quality of my open baffle treble and box woofer NX-Studio monitors but they don’t work well for me. Where was that elusive even better more efficiency easy to drive speaker design that I was looking for? Plus, it needed to sound really good with as few problems as was possible. I was really getting tired and disillusioned but I kept on trying.
THE 3 LAWS OF PHYSICS INVOLVED IN AUDIO SPEAKER DESIGN
So back to my elusive speaker search. I spent months online looking at everything and reading everything I could find – cube audio, voxativ, AER, Louther, crossover-less designs and 2 ways and 3 ways with crossovers. Open baffle, closed box, sealed, ported, transmission line, horn, constant directivity you name it and I probably tried it on for size (again). I even considered building my own cabinets but what kind of enclosure would work with what drivers? I’ve built so many designs myself that I really didn’t have a solution in mind and definitely never experienced the kind of success I was looking for. Designs built by others didn’t make it either – yet. Maybe I was asking for too much but my goal was to find one pair of speakers that did everything well including placement and weren’t the size of refrigerators or required several people just to re-position or move them. Here’s the problem that we all face:
I learned (from prior experience) that the law of physics gave you 3 parameters that you must have if you wanted the best sound quality:
1. Your speaker cabinet size (the bigger the better):
2. The desired low frequency (bass) extension (the lower the better): and
3. The sensitivity of your speaker system (the higher the better).
You’re free to choose any two of those 3 parameters you want and then the 3rd parameter will be provided for you by the law of physics. There simply is no way to build a small friendly speaker and to get it to extend low enough in the bass region without applying lots of power. A small speaker becomes limited in bass extension and typically is highly insensitive so it will need a very powerful amplifier to sound its best (typically a 100w/ch solid state amplifier). As a result, any kind of emotional connection is lost while detail and imaging and dynamics become excellent. So how do you find a speaker system that:
1. Allows for the use of very low powered tube amps (maybe 9 w/ch to as low as 2 w/ch)? Tube amplifiers provide the quality of the 1st watt wrapped within a seductive three dimensional level of 2nd harmonics that cause us to want to listen to music. Using a tube amplifier is a very human oriented thing and fully dependent upon how our ears hear music.Tube rolling and circuit design varies considerably so once again, you need to be careful since choosing the right tube amplifier that is required to meet your personal goals.
The main problem with using a good low powered tube amp, however, is that it requires a high efficiency speaker at least 95db (100 db is even better) and good ones are difficult to find. This is the path to follow if you want to have both the highest musical quality along with the most emotional laden music playback possible.
Over the span of several decades I had been looking for this combination but hadn’t found it. Solid state amps just don’t have the 3 dimensional effect that causes you to “want to listen and not shut off your system”. Most of these amps also become tiring after a period of time and typically none are really great at creating an emotional connection with your music. Pass Labs amps come close but still don’t compared to how good a low powered tube amp can be. A superb low powered tube amp provides this connection and in spite of the flaws with this design, this solution tends to be a better matchup when trying to create lifelike real sounding music. The closer you stay to the first watt of power, the better off you are. But then where is the ideal speaker system that plays well with this kind of low powered amplifier and Isn’t the size of a refrigerator or larger and doesn’t weigh 100 to 200 pounds?
3. . . . and, has good bass extension at least down to 36Hz and then maybe lower to maybe the 20Hz area (optionally) when desired?
THIS IS NOT AN EASY SEARCH & DEFINITELY A REALLY DIFFICULT TASK
Sounds easy but in reality, its almost impossible. Huge horn speakers typically rule the low powered tube amp marketplace. They’re also typically 100 to 200 pounds each, are massive and heavy, and are impossible to move without 2 or more people, and just don’t fit into today’s listening environment. They take up too much space and in all honesty, overpower a rooms appearance. As much as I appreciate a really high quality full range driver in a really large cabinet, I also can’t expect a single speaker (no matter how big the enclosure or design and how expensive the driver) to play well with all types of music. Large scale orchestra music (classical and modern), rock concerts, R&B, and most Indie experimental music and electronic music just doesn’t sound right unless using at least a good 2 way design (two speakers) and maybe at most a single capacitor and a single inductor to match both speakers levels. If you add any more components to a speaker crossover, however, the result is that you lower the efficiency and the ease of driving a speaker system and very quickly, this becomes a detriment and moves you away from the low powered tube amp realm and into the higher powered solid state amp realm.
So where is this ideal design where efficiency isn’t sacrificed nor its ease to drive music well with very low power. A good low powered tube amplifier increases in volume when impedance goes up (easy to drive). A speaker system where impedance becomes lower (through adding more crossover control and components) requires more power to drive and hence becomes a better platform for a solid state amp and not for a low powered tube amp. If you head in the solid state direction, you lose the emotional connection (loss of 2nd order harmonics etc) that is critically important (at least for my goals) while you increase the detail and ability to hear small things.Chasing detail while using solid state power amps just isn’t emotionally satisfying and leads to a substantial decrease in musical enjoyment and I can’t do that anymore. Instead, I want to find that one design that works well with a low powered tube amp and allows me to play all of my music (all genres) and is easy to place in my listening environment. That’s asking for a lot. and finding something with the least number of compromises and the best sound quality is definitely a serious challenge.
WHAT IS MY MOST IMPORTANT GOAL FOR SELECTING AN IDEAL PAIR OF AUDIO SPEAKERS?
My ultimate goal for putting together a superb audio system is to get it to sound as close to live music as is possible while realizing that room acoustics, room treatment, placement, power quality, and other important factors aren’t perfect. I need a really good compromise and one that isn’t too expensive.
You can start feeling how difficult this search is particularly when you don’t have a perfect listening environment to begin with. Most of us don’t have that and can’t build an ideal listening only space even if we knew how. Its really difficult particularly if your goal isn’t to spend a huge fortune on something that is way too big and heavy to easily move around and one that needs a dedicated and perfect acoustically treated listening space. Add a desire for value and heirloom quality and placement flexibility for others and you can see how big this problem becomes:
ONE OF MY ADDITIONAL KEY GOALS IS TO OWN A PAIR OF SPEAKERS THAT CAN BE HANDED DOWN THROUGH MY FAMILY (children and grandchildren) AND BE FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO FIT INTO ANY ENVIRONMENT THEY MIGHT HAVE AND NOT JUST MINE. The biggest and most expensive high quality speakers systems don’t meet that goal. They require a very specific and perfectly planned and very expensive listening environment. Flexibility is sacrificed by their huge expenditure, size, and placement inflexibility, and I’m not willing to do that. I don’t think you are either! If what I’ve shared so far resonates with you, keep reading and I’ll gradually get to the point.
I FINALLY CAME UP WITH A GOOD SOLUTION & THAT IS WHAT I’M NOW RECOMMENDING FOR ALL OF MY CUSTOMERS WHO ALSO HAVE SIMILAR AUDIO GOALS THAT I DO
After spending months searching and remembering all of the various sound qualities from the many audio systems I’ve put together in the past, I finally came upon a commercial solution that made a huge amount of sense.
Remember that any speaker is always a compromise and that there really isn’t an ideal solution.
Expensive speakers typically have plenty of extra “bling” and markups that you’re paying for and require a large dedicated and well treated listening room. That solution is really expensive and doesn’t suit my goals and probably not yours either.. Those kinds of speakers are typically sold through distributors and dealers who also add their markups raising the cost of these components (speakers and related audio components needed to drive them) beyond anything that resembles good sensible value. I do not recommend that you consider going in that direction. If you do, you’re on your own since I have no interest in following you. I’ve been there and in the end, it really doesn’t work. If you’re interested more in the audio components and in spending money and time, maybe that’s enough for you. But if you really love music, that approach is very ineffective.
COHERENT AUDIO SPEAKERS
I’ve built many different speaker designs and have retailed many others and I’m still searching for that illusive ideal solution. Trying to find manufactured speakers (after considering many DIY possibilities) is really difficult. Probably more so since their size and placement doesn’t make them easy to obtain or send back and sell if they don’t work for you. This has to be the most difficult part of creating an ideal audio solution. After looking, searching, reading, and trying for the life of me to find something I could believe in and use for myself, I came across Coherent Audio speakers out of Ontario, Canada. I had used Radian coaxial designs before (both in an open baffle design as well as closed box) and really liked them. Placement ruled out open baffle and I never did have the right cabinet design to fully appreciate these speakers or time further exploring their options.
The owner of Coherent Audio, Frank Fazzalari is another audiophile who not only was on the same search path that I was but eventually formed his own company to manufacture what he found to be the most affordable (still not cheap) and most flexible solution that anyone could put together. Frank made the excellent choice to build this elusive solution and offer it to others through his CNC efforts. Many of us really need what he offers but have no idea that this is the solution we’ve been looking for since his stuff isn’t typically available to listen to at normal audio dealers plus the coronavirus problem has made the exploration needed almost impossible. I’m sure Frank came to the same conclusions that we all do once properly experienced and educated and he was fortunate to find an elusive and excellent audio speaker compromise – one that really works.
Are his speakers perfect and do they play just like “live” music? Of course not. No audio system is perfect no matter what the cost!
Trying to come close for a reasonable expenditure in real world spaces is a real challenge. Frank’s approach does better than anything that I’ve been able to put together previously (no matter the cost or size) and his speakers play all kinds of music In fact, his speakers are what I’ve been looking for and are the speakers that I’m now recommending for my customers needs. They work and come as close to “ticking” all of my boxes in terms of satisfying the majority of my audio goals. Music quality is excellent and these speakers are easy to place. They are beautiful to look at and are worth passing on through my family as heirlooms.
Some of Coherent Audio speaker benefits:
- High sensitivity so easy to drive with low powered tube amps
- They also can used with high powered solid state amps due to the robustness of the drivers involved
- They are superb and can be used for creating music (with solid state amp) as well as for emotionally laden musical listening (with tube amp)
- They provide a “point source” since the coax driver is inserted and uses the large 12″ or 15″ woofer as a horn
- They are excellent at very low volume and can be listened to near field or in a large room
- They can be placed close to walls behind them and corners or pulled out into the room
- Bass extension is solid and adequate without subwoofers
- They are beautiful to look at and made much like actual musical instruments. I love the interior instrument style bracing to eliminate standing waves.
- The 12″ coax monitors weigh less than 50 pounds and can be moved and repositioned by just one person
- Heirloom quality is there and satisfies my additional goal
These speakers fulfill more of my goals in the best way. They are better than any other option and also afford a really excellent upgrade path if someone needs to start out with the lowest cost option and then move even higher in terms of their music playback quality. Starting out with the basic design isn’t too much of a compromise and it leaves more to realize later on if desired. This potential illustrates well that old adage that if you spend your money well, you’re at least 95% of the way there. But then that last 5% requires an expenditure that makes no sense since it requires a much bigger outlay for what it accomplishes. Audiophiles chase that last 5% and are willing to pay that high price to achieve it. Pro-audio proponents typically don’t but its nice to know that this possibility exists. If for financial reasons, you begin with Franks most basic speaker system design, you have a built in upgrade path if you want to pursue it. The speakers don’t change. Just some of the internal parts and they are easily upgraded.
All of Franks speakers are built to order and you can select from various style options (monitor or floor-stander), driver and cabinet size options (10″, 12″ or 15″), tweeter options (aluminum, neodymium, or beryllium), capacitor options (Mundorf Supreme, EVO silver/gold/oil, Supreme silver/gold/oil), and a wide choice of veneers that you might desire. You’re now in the 96 to above 100db sensitivity area with easy to drive speakers. Low powered tube amps of all kinds can be used and used well
If you’re careful with your selections, you’ll be able to end up with a pair of speakers that you absolutely love and can keep and enjoy them for the remainder of your life. This is custom all the way but with a design that is real world and it doesn’t cost “an arm and a leg”. Coherent Audio speakers are beautiful and satisfy my other important goal . . . that of being archival in quality, beautiful, and worth passing down through my family rather than being sold to some unknown audiophile on Audiogon or other sales website. In fact, I value them as much as I do a really high quality musical instrument and consider them in the same league. They are made in a similar fashion out of materials that I respect, like, and use in my own OEM creations.
The design of these speakers allows them to be smaller (than alternatives) yet allows them to extend far enough into the bass region to not require subwoofers or large cabinets.
There is another key requirement that these speakers provide:
If you don’t have a lot of space (like in an audio studio or smaller home environment particularly where real estate is really expensive) speakers typically must reside close to corners or against the walls behind them. Yes, they do sound better when pulled a minimum of 3 feet and ideally 5 feet into the room but then a really large dedicated listening room is required and treating your room becomes even more difficult and expensive.
Most of us don’t have a large dedicated listening room or the money or the interest to acoustically treat and put one together. That was the old “man cave” style used by our fathers and grandfather’s and typically occurred in a basement that wasn’t premium space used for daily living
Today, young professionals are just as interested in listening to music as they are in creating it and want it to be in their living space or inside their own home studios or home offices where they create music and probably also work. There are more singer/songwriters emerging who play keyboards or guitar and that is something that is fueling a resurgence in the audio realm but in a much different way than when done by our “old guy audiophiles”. This group is looking at putting together not just an excellent listening system but also one that can record and mix and master music they create.
We find a common requirement that this system must be placed in smaller rooms that allow for both listening and music creation and also need to be the least intrusive possible. What do we do that? How do we put together that elusive system?
A SUPERB SOLUTION
That solution is exactly what I found when I discovered Coherent Audio speakers and its one man designer and builder, Frank Fazzalari. Frank is located in a direct shot from Boston and is an easy 7 hour drive from me. He provides superb palletized truck delivery for my customer base so its easy to work with him while satisfying a huge market that I have in my backyard. This base is large and I no longer need to worry about shipping speakers via FedEx or UPS clear across the country and fear for their safe arrival thousands of miles away. Palletized freight delivery is the only way I’ll accept speakers from any speaker manufacturer. Yes, its more expensive but . . . it results in success every time I use it compared to regular un-palletized delivery methods that are laden with numerous damage problems. Boston, MA is my primary market for Coherent Audio speakers and I highly recommend them for my customers. These speakers are what you’ll hear when you make an appointment to come to my studio for a demonstration of my world class listening and music creation system.
If you like my system design approach, you’ll find that it will provide you with one of the absolute best music listening experiences that you could put together. It will allow you to use most any amplifier but more important, to create the emotional connection that will cause you to want to listen to music and not to turn your system off to do other things. I have both a world class tube amplifier powering this system for emotional music listening as well as a higher powered world class solid state amplifier that allows for excellent very neutral music creation. And, you can toggle between both with the push of a single button and really hear and enjoy the differences.
Both are on at the same time and available so you can toggle between listening to one or the other on the same pair of speakers. You can also create new music using my professional recording system. That consists of my Dangerous Music Convert AD+ (ADC), Grace Music stereo microphone preamplifier, and Neumann microphone collection. Record a guitar live with microphones, play a keyboard via USB into an iMac Pro and then work on your results using Apple Logic or Ableton Live and then listen to the results with both the tube and solid state playback system (emotional music listening or neutral music creation).
If you want to use a set of active speakers, they also can be accessed by the pushing of just one button on my speaker monitor controller. And a sub? I have a pair of active M&K subwoofers connected that can be added or removed by the click of yet another single button. The subs can be added to any one of the other 3 speaker/amplification stereo systems and also are always on so the on/off switch can be used when desired and excellent comparisons can be made.
If you don’t have a lot of space, go with the exterior power amp direction I use and use this one pair of speakers for all of your needs. You really don’t need a pair of active studio monitors but of course, they can be easily added. Another pair of inexpensive active monitors (like the cheap Avantone monitors) could also provide another option to test how your recording and mixing compares on low cost systems. Buttons that toggle between and amongst up to 3 speaker pairs of stereo speakers systems and a button to allow your subwoofers to be on or off is what my system offers at an extremely high sound quality – one that will take your breath away with its beauty.
This system does all of this in the most transparent and revealing way to provide the highest audiophile sound quality for both pro-audio and audiophile use. More about that later on. Just realize that I’ve fine tuned all components within this system using everything I’ve learned over the last several decades of building and reselling most every design known to man.Everything that I’ve chosen for this system is there for a reason and performs in the best way.If you’re only interested in music listening, then a pair of high efficiency Coherent Audio speakers and a 9 w/ch tube amplifier would be all that you need. If you want to do more, that also is available using the same components. There is no need to change.
If you’re headed into music creation add a 2nd solid state amplifier and use the same Coherent Audio speakers as your primary monitors.
Get more serious and add a pair of active pro monitors (Neuman KH120 or KH310) and subwoofers (M&K).
And then if you want to max out this configuration, add a pair of inexpensive active monitors (Avantone MixCube) and find out how your mix sounds on low cost systems. You don’t need anything more than this if you want to max out this system.
The subwoofers are used for music genres that extend bass below what is naturally created using acoustic instruments (i.e. R&B, hip-hop, rap, large scale rock concerts, etc). I have a pair of active subwoofers connected to my demo system and you can turn them on and off using just a single button on my really transparent desktop volume control and monitoring system. This will allow you to hear exactly when adding subs makes a difference. If you’re more interested in listening or recording acoustic music, you don’t need subwoofers but they are nice to have.
This is an ideal solution (and a beautiful building block plan) for both the best music listening and the best critical music tracking, mixing and mastering if you would like to do both.
Coherent Audio speakers will allow you to get good bass down to 36Hz (for monitors on a stand) or 26Hz (if you choose the floor standing version). But if you like or create or listen to the lowest registers of electronic music, you might like to go lower. A subwoofer(s) can be added just by clicking a single button (on/off) and is your best solution for this system rather than trying to get one pair of speakers to work well with both music genres (acoustic and electronic). You could use a single pair of speakers but they would need to be really huge refrigerator sized to work well. A good sub (or ideally two) would be a better way to go and provide you with the ability to turn off the low extended bass when its not needed. And of course, this is an optional purchase that can be done when you have all of the other more important considerations taken care of and purchased.
THIS IS A CRITICALLY IMPORTANT FACT TO CONSIDER IF YOU DO USE A SUBWOOFER!
You can’t use just any subwoofer since integration with your main speaker system is of critical importantance and very few integrate well. You need one that provides really tight bass and integrates well with your primary music listening speakers. That type of sub isn’t easy to find and when you do, its usually expensive. I do have a solution for this ULTIMATE MUSICAL SUBWOOFER SYSTEM and I am recommending that you consider a M&K brand dual 10″ active subwoofer. It provides the highest driest bass extension I’ve been able to find and doesn’t have the negative design flaws that you’ll find in most subwoofer systems. That’s what you’ll hear and be able to demo in my studio system (demo by appointment only).
After building most every type of speaker system known to man and after importing and distributing and selling speakers built from as far away as India, the speaker recommendation that I’m making here is what I feel makes the most sense for most people and is the best I can find at “real world’ prices without spending huge amounts of money on an audio system, real estate to house your system, and room treatment.
No, this is not a cheap solution but also isn’t exotically expensive and most anyone can acquire this system even if its put together one step at a time over a long period of time. Buy the best once and don’t incur the losses that you’ll find if you instead buy and sell things just to work your way up to something you like.That isn’t easy since room acoustics is where you should start first while installing reasonable room treatment techniques and considering near field listening is one of the ways to minimize the problems and to lower the expense. This is where I begin my work no matter how difficult or less than perfect is a listening space. Acoustic treatment is every much as important as is acquiring superb audio components once your audio goals are well defined. They need to be carefully managed and I can help you with that.
The basic Coherent Audio speaker is 96dB efficient, easy to drive, and can accommodate a 2 w/ch tube amplifier or a 300 w/ch solid state amp. A higher cost option that can be added allows this same speaker to increase its efficiency to 102dB. It provides a “point source” presentation where tweeters and woofers are not out of plane or phase with each each nor can they be heard coming from two or more different locations (near field, mid field, or far field). The tweeter and woofer are well integrated so they aren’t rough sounding and are designed to produce a true high end sound quality. These speakers can be placed close to walls and corners and don’t need to be pulled out the typical 3-5 feet into the room (as are most really good speakers) even though they would sound superb in that position. Yes, pulling these into your listening room is the optimum way to use them but for tighter space, minimal concessions need to be made and these concessions are doable. Many high end speakers only work well when pulled into your listening room at least 5 feet. That’s an incredible concession and ruins any kind of speaker placement flexibility.
As a result, a pair of Coherent Audio speakers is not only highly flexible but provides a sound quality that is one of the best with the least compromises that other speaker types require you to make. You can play any type of music (all genres) and are not restricted to only your good sounding small scale stuff.Easy placement, a wide range of amplification types, and superb sound quality is the result. This probably solves 95% of most audio needs so why consider other options? If you went that route, you’d be involved in a flurry of buying and selling that rarely points to a satisfactory solution and puts a huge hole in your wallet. Coming up with the money to acquire a system like what I’m recommending requires serious money and careful consideration. But . . . it is doable for the average user and nothing is wasted on useless fluff. Be careful, listen to someone who can share real world solid experience, and then take your time putting together an ideal audio system that will satisfy most of your needs once they have been well defined.
This is a permanent speaker recommendation and ultimate purchase that I can help you with. It costs around $4k for a single pair of really useable great sounding speakers.It’s taken me decades of buying and selling to finally arrive at this incredible solution and I’m excited to share it with you. $4k is a really low cost for what what you are getting when you purchase a pair of Coherent Audio speakers. Yes, you can spend less but I don’t think you’ll be happy so why not take your time and do it right?
Contact me to arrange an appointment to demo this same system in my demo oriented studio. If you are interested, I can arrange an appointment with you to come over here and if you’re interested further, I’ll come over to your space and make recommendations for improving your sound quality one step at a time.
LOW VOLUME LISTENING IN SMALL, MEDIUM OR LARGE ROOMS
Low volume listening is superb with these speakers and in many ways, this is probably the best speaker I could recommend to anyone for near field listening late at night. However, these work well as mid field speakers in medium sized rooms or far field listening in large rooms. All room sizes and all amplification types work well plus playing with all music genres. Use a very low powered tube amp with these speakers and you’ll end up feeling like you’re “in heaven”. The sound quality is that mesmerizing, emotionally satisfying, and good.
HEIRLOOM QUALITY SPEAKERS
These area also “heirloom” style speakers that will last many decades and can be passed on to your family members over time. They are beautifully made and weigh around 42 lbs each so don’t require two strong people to install or move them and they can easily to be re-located from one household to another. More important, they do not need subwoofers to play satisfying deep musical bass. The monitor version of this speaker plays down to 36Hz and the floor stander version goes down to 28Hz. The floor standing speaker version (identical speakers and internal components) has a slightly larger interior volume so it is able to go down a bit deeper than does the monitor without changing the footprint needed for either speaker. Other than this internal volume difference, both systems are identical and both cost the same and take up the same floor space. The monitor version includes a solid walnut stand and the floor stander doesn’t require it and hence this is a customer chosen trade-off. The cost for either one is the same. You get to choose.
SPEAKER SIZE & PLACEMENT REQUIREMENTS
Floor space required for either the monitor or floorstander is the same 16″ wide x 14″ deep x 36″ height from the floor to the top of the cabinets. Where you place them is up to you and your willingness to improve your sound quality through placement changes and room acoustic treatment. Other than that, these are one of the easiest purchases you could make and definitely the most flexible that I could recommend.
Here is what both speaker cabinets look like (the monitor on stands or the floor standing version):
12″ Coaxial Horn Loaded Driver With Either Stand Mounted Or FloorStanding Construction
There are many different speakers and types of speakers that you could purchase for your needs – high efficiency, compression horns, box speakers (sealed or ported), transmission line, open baffle and a myriad of other combinations. Over the last number of decades, I’ve built most all of these various types to learn about each one and have sold other manufactures speaker designs. I know first hand what each of these designs can and cannot do. I’ve gone from high efficiency to low efficiency designs. Low powered powered amps to high powered amps and everything in between. I’m finally at a place in my life when I can highly recommend this ultimate speaker design approach to you and I know, that without a doubt, you are going to enjoy them and find them useful for a very long time. My goal is to enjoy a pair of speakers like this that are worth owning and then to have them of such value and flexible that they are passed own beyond my life. These are speakers that truly are heirloom in both build and sound quality. They are “desert island” speakers and could be only ones you need to own for the remainder of your life.
You might combine these with an active proaudio monitor if you’re into recording (2 pairs of speakers) but in all honesty, a good neutral power amp is all that you need (in addition to the tube amp for enjoyable emotional driven listening). A superb system switching button oriented volume control system is all that you need (one of my suggestions) and one of those buttons might also allow you to engage or shut off a pair of active subwoofers. You won’t want to listen to music on the pro audio monitors if you add them to this system. They will be bland and very uninteresting but are good for making recording decisions – tracking and mixing. These high efficiency speakers (the same ones I’m sharing here) will cause you to want to listen to music with low powered tube amps and you’ll find many times when you simply do not want to turn the music off and go to bed or perform other tasks that you should do if getting away was easy. It won’t be.
Before going any further, I would like to share that I’m a recovering “detail freak”. I like to hear everything that is on a recorded piece of music. I’ve pursued obtaining the ultimate finest detail until my last purchase, a Sonnet Morpheus DAC with Pass Labs amplification. Yes, the detail was amazing but I totally lost any emotional connection with music and the reason for this entire adventure – enjoyment. As a result, I’ve completely changed directions and no longer recommend my prior audiophile direction. It is still there as part of my vast experience but . . . I hesitate to recommend it to anyone else. Its taken me a huge amount of money and effort and time to share what I’m sharing with you now and to tell you that these speakers and this accumulation of audio components that I use are the absolute best that I could put together.. This IS the audio system that will satisfy the most emotionally laden bone in your body while at the same time allowing you to resolve your need to hear detail – brushes on cymbals, cues that allows you to hear musicians moving around, placement of instruments, etc. and staying close to the first watt to achieve the highest possible audio playback quality). If you head in any other direction, you’ll be doing what I did and will waste a tremendous amount of time and money. Allow me to help shorten that negative journey for you and consider accepting some of my recommendations.
I’m also a former professional jazz piano player and I know what real instruments sound like up close. I try to fine tune my system so I can get that same type of sound quality from my recorded music. I like to hear music as it actually exists “on stage”. If I listen to others play and I’m in the audience, I love being in the 1st row (not the 13th row or further back). That’s my approach to listening and its also one of the best for music creation as well as music listening particularly when listening near field. In my opinion, the magic happens when close to the instruments and I’m here for the magic. The system I’m describing and recommending allows me to accomplish my personal listening goals. If yours are similar, you’ll be totally satisfied with my approach. If you’re looking for concert hall far in the back rows type of presentation, you need to go somewhere else since that’s not what I like hearing or creating.
In all honesty its virtually impossible to match the sound of live music and real instruments using recorded music and an audio playback system. I’ve spent a ton of money, time, and effort in trying to come as close as I can within a reasonable financial expenditure. No, this system isn’t low cost but it is far away from the esoteric super high cost stuff your father and grandfather may have used in a dedicated listening room. You can afford it! It doesn’t include any unnecessary bling and money wasting factors. Everything in this system is dedicated toward providing the absolute best listening quality along with the best long-term longevity. Circuit design is #1. Component quality is #2. I like to have both but my component value approach does not include unnecessary embellishment that doesn’t improve your sound quality The audiophile industry appears to go in that direction to make components appear to be greater than they actually are.
I’m interested in achieving a more archival and heirloom approach than our typical short term transitory audiophile bling factor approach that most people seem to get caught up in. I also like to use pro-audio equipment that bridges both the audiophile and pro audio gap. The stuff I use is also used by the highest quality most expensive recording studios for that same reason. It is the best and sounds superb. Home audio pro-audio interfaces allow you to get the job done but the results don’t compare to “doing it right”. The components that I suggest all allow you to have the best for a reasonable price and doesn’t matter if you reside only in the audiophile realm or the pro-audio realm or both.
The high efficiency speakers that I’m recommending should last many decades and are worthy of passing on to your family. Most of those other systems are not and when they’re sold, a huge financial loss will be realized and very little of what’s there would be worthy of passing on. Very few people would be interested in owning that kind of system and it definitely would not be flexible like what I’m recommending. Anyone down the family road would love the system I put together – anyone!
A NEW GENERATION OF AUDIO LISTENERS IS EMERGING
Today’s younger generation grew up listening to music and loving music as it was. They weren’t into chasing audio equipment and many started out using cheap ear buds and low cost music players. It was the music they were interested in and not the electronics. As time went on, this group graduated to using expensive headphones and headphone amps but still hadn’t created an interest in building $100k+ high end dedicated listening rooms. Once again, their enjoyment of music came first and their sound quality kind of followed but wasn’t the controlling factor.
Finally today, young professionals are at the beginning of their careers and are making really good money. They can finally afford to purchase really good components but are also becoming interested in recording their own music using guitars, keyboards, and maybe even writing their own songs. Their love is still music first but now they’re creating some of it. As this trend picks up steam, a recording interface and microphones are needed plus neutral speakers to track and mix their recordings so they sound good on most low quality playback systems. As a result, this emerging audiophile/pro-audio population is now assembling their own home studios but in a way that doesn’t resemble the old expensive dedicated listening rooms their fathers and grandfathers built.
THIS IS THE FUTURE OF AUDIO END USERS AND IT IS THIS AUDIENCE THAT I’M TRYING TO SUPPORT
I love music. I’m a musician first and an audiophile pro-audio enthusiast second. Yes, I build and sell manufactured audio components (plus my own) but this has been an end to a means and not a means to an end. I’ve always had to know how things worked and had the drive to always try to make my explorations the best I possibly could – anywhere at any cost. Using reality as my guide, I ended up finding the “sweet spot” for putting together a superb audio system and that is what I’m now recommending for my customers.
The audio realm is basically a jungle and is much like it was in the old days of the Wild West. There isn’t any regulation and there’s plenty of “snake oil” stuff going on while most manufacturers attempt to capture their portion of this market. Building to a profit point is typically the goal and music quality isn’t the first goal. It just needs to be good enough and look amazing to cause uneducated consumers to purchase it. No, its not bad. But it also isn’t really good. Why pay a huge amount of money for mediocrity particularly while you know little about how things really work. There is no speaker or audio component that is ideal. All are a compromise.How do you find the best within that realm? Contact me and I’ll share my own experiences in doing exactly that.
Confusion reigns and the old style of doing things hasn’t gone away. What you see in the commercial marketplace is a very high purchase price for their providing you with a bunch of things your really don’t need:
1. Bling Factor – exotic cabinetry and metal work makes a component look worthy of your purchase but in reality, that has nothing to do with the circuitry and components. Even if the components are of the highest value, the circuit design used is #1. Is this the best circuit approach or is it another “me too” design?
Component value comes 2nd (but only if your circuit design is the absolute best) and is then worth spending money on. IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO OWN SOMETHING THAT HAS LONG TERM VALUE THERE ARE FEW OPTIONS. Our society is very short-term oriented and typically takes a “throw away” rather than an heirloom approach to life. Paying for expensive “fluff” makes no sense for this group and I highly recommend that you stay away from equipment that is more style and appearance oriented rather than of true audio value. This group will value how something looks and then think that is what makes it the best. It typically isn’t the case.
2. Distributor Markups – to provide a sales force.
3. Dealer Markups – to pay the sales force.
These 3 items along probably account for 75% of what you’re paying for when you purchase equipment today with maybe 25% going into the component that you’re buying. The audiophile realm typically gives its dealers 40% of the sales price and the pro audio realm gives its dealers 25% of the sales price. Then distributors get their cut and finally, the manufacturer is afforded a proper profit margin. What is left over goes into creating your audio component. Most everything you purchase from this model is heavily inflated and people other than the manufacturer typically make more for taking care of finding you and selling items to you. They are interested in your constant buying and selling. In fact, its almost required for them to survive.
Remember these words and you’ll understand what is going on:
DON’T SATISFY FOR “BUILT TO A PRICE POINT” – THERE ARE BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU”RE LOOKING FOR!
That’s how the audio industry works! It’s unfortunate but true. The audio industry is an unregulated mess. Because music isn’t something that is required for our physical well being, our governments don’t care if unsuspecting people waste a huge amount of money pursuing what it deems as unnecessary. Hence there is no regulation. We can be as “crazy” as we want since spending money in this way is our decision and doesn’t affect the health of others. Getting you to constantly buy and sell and spend money then becomes the focus of those in the audio industry. In other words, they’re focused on making money first and providing the best sound quality 2nd. It should be the other way around without concern for making huge profits. If a company gets large it needs to pay a lot of people. It can only do this through achieving a high volume of sales. And, it can only do that by paying distributors and dealers to find and sell to you in large numbers. If you work with the one man operation (like myself, like Frank, and others) and are very careful to invest in other components that you need, you’ll do well. If think you can do this on your own, go ahead. It will cost you a tremendous amount of money and in time you will end up with the experience you need to come to the same conclusions that I’m sharing here.
There is no magic solution that allows you to get the most for your money and also allow everyone in the “feed chain” to get paid first – at your expensive As a result, the used component (audiophile or pro-audio) market has become really big and you might save something going this direction. if you do, however, you still won’t learn how to put together a “final system” and you’ll end up buying and selling constantly while searching for that elusive solution. In the used market, the original purchaser takes a typical 40% or higher loss and you get to purchase equipment for closer to actual dealer cost (not distributor cost and definitely not manufacturer direct cost) even though its been used. That’s better than buying new but still not ideal and who knows what another person(s) might have done to this equipment that makes it less desirable than when purchasing new.
This money oriented shift (from new at a brick and mortar dealer to used or online) is causing brick and mortar audio dealers to go out of business since their sales are beginning to be eaten alive by those who purchase used equipment instead of purchasing new. Consumers are more and more hesitant to pay for service (since they now have the power of the Internet and think that’s best for making decisions) and in all honesty, many of the salespeople in the brick and mortar stores know less than the consumer who is looking for equipment so in reality, brick and mortar stores have an unfolding situation that is contributing to their demise.
The current coronavirus situation is falsely providing everyone in this chain a good living but this short term shift is gradually fading as we come back to a semi-normal way of doing things. Also, the supply chain has been having a difficult time keeping up with the large at home demand that has been created by the pandemic. Demand and supply are out of balance but when they get back to that position, things will change again.
In due time, I predict that you will find fewer and fewer brick and mortar stores left where you can listen to equipment and make purchase decisions. They simply cannot survive and most of you are not going to allow them to receive compensation for just making a sale particularly if you no longer value their perceived expertise. Even if you make the same purchase your could from them, you’ll probably buy this equipment used or at a lower price online and hence the stores will suffer. Eventually, they will go out of business and this industry will have to change. It already has due to the short-term artificial demand created by the pandemic. When that crisis is over things will fade and shift in the another direction. Meanwhile, you’ll have the opinions of other people (good or bad) who have vastly different listening environments than you do, who also might or might know what music really should sound like. Without the ability to hear these things first hand, you’ll end up spending even more large sums of money while not accomplishing what you would truly like – to enjoy listening to music.
I can help you acquire solid solutions with your current and future purchases, That has always been my goal when building my own OEM components. I typically sold my own OEM creations at parts cost without markup even for my time and R&D costs. I did this to learn and to be able to build one thing after another until I finally came up with a good solution to share with others I’m one of the few people on Earth who have had different custom annealing done to make up various gauges of platinum and gold wire. I’ve experiment with copper, silver, platinum and gold in my systems and even had to apply and receive a license from the US Government to purchase flux from Japan to be able to solder gold wire. If gold wire isn’t soldered with (missile designed flux) the flux that we typically use will eat the gold connection and in a few weeks it will come apart. I’ve wasted huge sums of money just to be able to hear these things that few people have ever witnessed. Why did I do that? To seek out the absolute best that I could. Even though others thought I was only interested in expensive high end components, that wasn’t my goal. Instead, I really tried to find the best and now am able to come to solid real world conclusions that help both you and me.
I’ve learned a lot and finally have come to the point in time when I can now make my own experienced oriented best decisions. I no longer will be offering my time and my R&D expenses as I have in the past. That has been a gift to the few that have purchased my creations. Yes, they are the best. No they are not a sustainable effort and in all honesty, I’m through with losing money in this endeavor. I’m tired and feel that I’ve put in my time and have gained the proper education and experience that I need. In fact, I’ve gone way overboard and have learned things that are necessary to put together the “best and most flexible” audio system.
Contact me and I’ll be glad to provide additional information and will share my recommendations. Gradually, I’ll put more on this website so you can see and feel the value that I can create for you. And, I’ll attempt at piecing together my knowledge in such a way that accessing it is easier. For now, allow me to write. I hope you are up to the task of reading what I’m sharing. If you do, you’ll gather some good tips.
For now I’ll leave you with this final comment:
I can provide a better audio system than you can and probably at a total cost that is less than you could accomplish on your own. In the process of working with me, I’ll share everything that I know and explain what works and what doesn’t so you don’t need to make the same costly investment that I did to find out. Those are the necessary ingredients for a good productive relationship and I look forward to that possibility.
HERE IS MY “DESERT ISLAND” SPEAKER RECOMMENDATION: