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In the Forum: Horn-Loaded Speakers
In the Thread: Aporia - Silbatone Acoustics speaker
Post Subject: Nobody can avoid the trap of languagePosted by Joe Roberts on: 1/13/2009

As the writer of the above-referenced propaganda, I am pleased to once again tweak the whiskers of the cat.

First off, this is promotional material so what the heck do you expect? Every brochure offers a new benchmark in performance or it is not doing the job.

Your post is about the words and mental pictures --"fetishes" if you will-- that Silbatone uses to persuade, but your critique of this sort of thinking is based on an equally stupid generalized picture of "vintage system."

Have you heard a WE full range horn? A Mirrophonic system with 594A drivers and two 18" electrodynamic woofers per side? This stuff ain't Altec--and I say that as a long time lover of Altec speakers.  These big WECO systems provide a very dramatic and sophisticated listening experience that is very different from high end gear or the general run of pro sound speakers.

I always argue for the priority of actual listening experience over language games or general philosophy, even though I do them all myself.  Thinking and talking about audio are  far removed from direct experience but this is what humans do to process the world. A category term like “horn” or “vintage audio” is a complicated thought module that has less utility the more general it gets and these descriptors get loaded with all manner of ideological associations, leaving us even further from the raw taste of sound coming out of a particular speaker in a specific place and time.

That said, enough philosophy! I'll try to relate my experience of this Manger back horn from my perspective.

Personally, I feel that the quality of the APORIA horn has little technically to do with the ancient Western Electric designs that inspired it, except in a very general way. Sonically, the Aporia shares the smooth, fluid character of a WE horn driven by antique WE triode amps but the real key is the Manger drive unit which is a much more modern innovation (1970s, I believe).

The Manger is very different from Lowthers and other paper fullranges. It is very balanced and not peaky at all. Lowthers are lots of fun to experiment with but it seems the Manger is less idiosyncratic sonically, although it is a unique piece of design work, and ultimately a more successful approach.

I ignored the Manger all these years because I was scared off by the low sensitivity when my own systems were mostly built around low powered amplifiers. The APORIA will run on a 300B very comfortably.

I just spent a week listening to the APORIA at CES. Many visitors knew the Manger driver and for them our big success was to do something special with the driver. For me, a non-Mangerphile, I was impressed with the platform. Very smooth and balanced, controlled without being overdamped, and clear without being bright and harsh. Vaguely reminiscent of the old Quad ESL in some intangible way, but more focused and dynamic.

Without the diffusor we put on the front of the driver, the Manger was a bit "in your face" and stood out too much from the back loaded LF. Bass was quite good but I would want to hear the speaker in a better room and a quieter environment to judge the subtleties of sub 50hz performance.

The driver is custom in the sense that Silbatone customizes it for the application, just as a "custom car" is aftermarket modified.  This is an American usage that might be lost on non-native speakers so I changed the wording to "customized."

Basically, what Silbatone does is add fixtures to the back of the driver to optimize for back horn loading. On the Manger, the LF backwave comes out of a different place than the HF backwave. There are also characteristics of the backwave that require attention, because it is not as well-behaved as the front wave. In a back horn, you must contend with aspects of the driver that do not matter in a normal front-firing

The main problem with the APORIA is that it is too freaking expensive to build the way Silbatone does things and that translates into a "crazy rich man" retail price. I suspect that the driver is a good candidate for Lowther style DIY work, but here we go again with the box problems. Few manufacturers and fewer hobbyists have access to the materials research and manufacturing capabilities of Silbatone Acoustics. It is a division of a big corporation with serious high-tech resources and their goal is to build real cost-no-object equipment.

As a man of the people, I recognize that low production, high-$ luxury gear like this matters little to most of us, but we can always rip off the good ideas for our own purposes and means. On that level, the back horn Manger deserves more hobbyist attention.

Your comments are useful in that they direct attention to the Manger and this modern implementation over the "triode and horn" dialogue, which does get a little silly at times. Independent of my friendly association with Silbatone Acoustics, I quite like the Manger driver and its performance in the back horn scheme.

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