The majority of the high-end audio marketplace is occupied by ill-conceived low efficiency loudspeaker systems. These designs usually consist of several less-than ideally-matched drivers and a very complex crossover, crammed into a cabinet that exhibits the tonal and textural qualities of reinforced concrete. Their designers are blinded by the dogmatic quest for high sound pressure levels and flat response.
But what of the other factors which are essential for emotionally involving music reproduction? What about coherence, full natural micro – as well as macro – dynamics, inner detail?
What about LIFE?
What about EMOTION?
Sorry, they’re just not part of the “High Performance Audio” design brief. And Music suffers for it.
The design of the AN-J Loudspeaker, by contrast, follows an altogether different philosophy. It calls for a cabinet that complements the chosen drive units, rather than fighting against them. Instead of trying to kill the resonances, we tailor the cabinet to place them in frequency bands where they aid and enhance the operation of the drive units, culminating in a loudspeaker system that makes the most of the preceding amplifier’s output.
The material choice for the cabinet is an area where a great deal of research and development has taken place. Over the years, we have tried many different materials and combinations, a time consuming endeavour culminating in the current design, which utilises the highest quality Russian Birch ply for the entire cabinet. Bracing and internal damping is kept to a minimum and strategically applied to help, not hinder the drivers.
The ported cabinet has been designed to be placed close to room boundaries, where the bass performance is augmented significantly by the additional reinforcement offered by the nearby walls. In this position, it will outperform any similarly sized speaker regardless of origin, thanks in part to the shallow cabinet / wide baffle shape which gives the drivers the best possible operating conditions, allowing them to perform as if they are mounted in a virtual wall. This provides the most undisturbed sound field with the widest and most even dispersion possible from a real world cabinet shape.
The crossover is simple, essentially first order, hardwired and incorporates air-cored chokes and selected bipolar and polypropylene capacitors (either copper foil or silver foil, depending on model.) The internal cabling consists of either 99.99% pure copper or 99.99% pure silver Audio Note (UK) wire, depending on the exact model. (See specifications.)
Consistent performance is a major issue in loudspeaker design and unfortunately all drive units vary slight from each other, even if they look the same and have the same basic specification. Many loudspeaker manufacturer’s will tell you that they provide “computer matched” crossovers, and whilst this may be true in one sense (each crossover may have been matched to have the exact same capacitance, inductance and resistance) this essentially “passive” method does not adequately take into consideration the mechanical and acoustic variance present in the drive units themselves, where minute differences in acoustic behaviour will result in quite substantial differences in performance and sound. Therefore, to obtain the best possible combination of drivers and crossovers, we have developed a dynamic matching process. This ensures that each loudspeaker in a stereo pair matches a ‘master curve’ and also its partner, to within 0.4dB; to the best of our knowledge, no other loudspeaker manufacturer achieves such close matching and tests 100% of its production.
Another much overlooked area of loudspeaker design is the material choice for the drivers. It has become very fashionable to use all manner of exotic materials (beryllium, diamond, carbon fibre, ceramics etc.) as cone materials in modern drivers, mainly because it gives the impression that the manufacturer in question is making great strides in their research into better sounding speakers. The sad fact is none of these materials work as intended, as they all have their own distinct sonic signature, so no matter how the crossover is designed, this sonic signature will be present when the speaker reproduces music. It may be less obvious and audible with some types of music, but ultimately the chosen material will always imprint some of its own signature on whatever sound is reproduced. In addition, it is vitally important that the sound and characteristics of an individual drive unit are complimentary to those of its chosen partner, so that when an instrument is reproduced by both drive units (which is almost always the case), the upper range does not sound detached from the lower range and visa versa. This is an aspect of performance that cannot be measured by even the most sophisticated test equipment; it can ONLY be judged by listening. We at Audio Note are keenly aware of this and have deliberately chosen drive units whose sonic signatures are as closely matched as possible. This has led us to favour good, old fashioned paper for the woofer cone and impregnated silk for the dome tweeter. These materials, when matched correctly, marry the low and high frequencies seamlessly, providing the best level of performance possible in the real world of acoustics.