John Hasquin showed up a couple days ago and suggested that many of modern compression driver manufacturers design thier products to get the "best" publishable parameters while completely disregarding any basic horn design rules and actual sound result. What John said is correct, and a huge amount of contemporary dead sounding compression drivers is a great illustration of this fact. However, the problem is much wider then John presented.
We, the guys who use horn loaded loudspeakers and presumably the compression drivers, are always deals with initially badly designed ingredients. The compression drivers, since they began to be manufactured (let for sake of illustration to look at 40-50s as the earlier drivers are hardly usable) never targeted a high fidelity of sound reproduction. The primary objective at the time was gaining a max acoustic pressure, which hardly has anything to do with sound quality.
Really, I can’t imagine that people, now and in past, design the drivers to get actual Sound out of them. I would not even point out the since begin of the Hi-Fi time no one ever made any serious attempt to develop worthwhile objective mechanism of subjective evaluations, so how the hell they manufacture sound? Yes, they applied some “basic horn design rules” not mater not faulty they sometime were. Yes, sometime they got some “evaluateable” result but how evolved was that “design ceremony” and was the result as good as it could be? The result always was very superficial and very not final, or put in this way: not serious enough for the standards of the contemporary home high fidelity audio reproduction.
When you read all those memories of old-school horn engineers who worked in 40-50 for Klipch, Klangfilm, Altec, JBL and so on then we have to clearly understand that all those things were made to power loudspeakers for stadiums, high power PA systems or movie theaters (that it that time were sonically in very bad shape… pretty much the similar how it’s now). No one, at that time, considered (commercially) about high fidelity, full-range sound reproduction, nearfield listening, 4-ways installations and so on. Yes, hey crated better phases plugs and try to made thier drivers “generally better” but they really did not know what they shot upon and they had no evolved today’s home-use demands. Certainly they did not have as many mistaken concept developed as we have today and many nowadays-faulty premises were not developed at that time; also some of their technologies were not spoiled. Still, we have to clearly realize that looking at the vintage compression drivers we deal with pretty much accidental results of the industry that did not mean to delivery refined results.
Here and there we can hear the voices of some droolers about the advantages and uniqueness of one or another compression driver (like me drooling about Vitavox S2). We still have to clearly recognize that is some successes were made then BUT they were clearly accidental AND placing those accidental successes in contemporary refined use it is possible to get results that were unspeakable 50 years ago (and eventually our drooling is a selection of the best among the worst). Only God knows how good those “better” drivers might be if they were designed with more objective then juts to develop a certain acoustic pressure…
Yes, some vintage drivers might sound phenomenal if they used in properly and skillfully bult today’s night demands acoustic systems by people who have knowledge and taste… However, we should never forget that we, while we would be doing those “night demands acoustic systems via vintage drivers” should not forget that we juts fond an PURELY ACCIDENTAL MATCH between some older drivers and our today’s need.
I juts wish somewhere would show up a manufacturer that would be able to produces compression drivers (or any drivers!!!) with sonic objectives… It is a best-kept secret in audio that 99.9999% of users out there use the intrinsically horrible drivers (or use them wrongly) and with those "dead drivers" any further conversations about quality of the sound become is not irrelevant but at least inappropriate.
Yes, Audio do starts with transducers....
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche