Out-of-box experience. No near death required. Ubiquitous box speakers either trap all of their drivers' rear emissions entirely (sealed) or partially (ported). During playback, the loudest part of your room now is inside the speaker. Its contained acoustic energies attack the enclosure and try to escape through the driver membranes for time-delayed smear. The result is colloquially known as box talk. To combat it, designers of upscale box speakers spend ever-greater resources on stiffer more highly damped enclosures. That means bolted or extruded aluminium builds like those from Magico, Stenheim and YG Acoustics; metacrylate-based composite affairs like Wilson; synthetic stone bonds like Mark & Daniel or Kroma; Panzerholz like Kaiser Acoustics; or nano-based metals like Æquo's Diluvite™. It tends to mean bigger heavier speakers. Eliminating thru-cone bleeds is still more difficult as it would require 100% absorptive internal wall/chamber treatments.
sound|kaos Libération – photo from Dawid Gryzb's review for HifiKnights.
The easiest way to eliminate box talk is to get rid of the box. Now all driver-generated energies couple to the room not half of them to a box. Alas, dipole radiation wraps around the baffle whose width determines at what frequency out-of-phase cancellation begins to create lateral nulls. Its cancellation zones avoid sidewall reflections to behave like virtual room enlargers. But they also throw away bass since it's the long wavelengths of the low band which do the wrapping and cancelling. To compensate, open-baffle woofers get big. A designer not keen on the brute-force approach of DSP and kilo-watt amplifiers either picks a mega woofer like Libération's 18-incher; or spreads the needed cone surface across multiple parallel smaller woofers like the Liber|8 does. Either way there's far more effective radiation surface at work than equivalent ported speakers apply to the same bandwidth. An OB's dynamic impact and raw air motion displacement thus play in a different league.
Bolting some drivers to a Plywood sheet held upright with L brackets is of course DIY 101. Making such designs salonfähig or suitable for fine homes takes far more. Driver backs, hookup wiring and filter parts no longer have a box to hide themselves from view. A cosmetically slick open baffle speaker is no easy thing to pull off. Yet potential savings over big heavy enclosures have made even simpler designs from Emerald Physics and Spatial popular. In Australia Kyron Audio pursue these paths at the very high end whilst in Italy, Diesis Audio do. As I wrote in a preview for the latter's Aura model, "it should come as no surprise that an open baffle's core operational principle of greater room involvement, larger cone surface and categorical absence of box bass with or without port effects lends itself particularly well to classical music. That repertoire contains no electrical bass whose highly damped textures are perhaps best rendered with active sealed speakers based on high-feedback internal class D for maximum control and violent smack. It contains no synth-generated infrasonics to demand bass extension beyond the reach of open baffles. It promotes a listener perspective which is surrounded by copious space and distance to prioritize reflected over direct sound.
Walt Disney concert hall of the L.A. Philharmonic. It visualizes the audience reality of classical music.
"As a genre, classical music relies on far broader recorded dynamic range—the difference between wispiest pianissimo and most brutal fortissimo—than compressed Pop that's been mastered for invariable loudness. Finally, the sheer scale and air-motion power of a 60-80-head symphonic orchestra is perhaps best rendered by the open-backed hence doubled-up displacement surface of dynamic dipoles. Big sound warrants big artillery. That classical isn't the exclusive domain of old fogies with vast LP/CD collections but just as accessible to inveterate streamers is shown by this spliced screen shot of idagio's purely classical streaming service headquartered in Berlin. Searching by composer and work, in this instance Johannes Brahms with his 3rd Symphony, brings up all available readings by conductor and orchestra. And that's just one example of a cloud-based avenue catering to the specialized search parameters of classical music listeners.
"The takeaway is that you can be young, hip and not own a record or CD player yet partake of this repertoire at greater depth than all but the most vociferous of collectors. If that's you, an OB aka open-baffle speaker could well be in your future." To which I'll add for today that if good looks are part of that picture, sound|kaos in this genre become uniquely attractive.
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