Building a new speaker Part 4

March 31, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

This is the last in our series of how we built the AN3 speaker system prototypes and may be one of the more interesting of the four. In this latest video, I give a quick demonstration of how the reference Arnie Nudell speaker’s midrange and tweeter sound, then turn around and play the same on the AN3’s tweeter and midrange. Even on my crappy little lapel microphone, the differences between the two are evident.

With newer driver technology and the luxury of standing on the shoulders of a giant, Darren and I were able to build an even more coherent and musically rich system than the reference we started with.

Improving on an existing standard is how modifiers and tweakers of equipment make forward strides in sound quality on existing designs. It is one thing to start from scratch and wander into the wilderness of the great unknown with a new design. It’s a lot easier to have a great starting point to begin the quest, which is fortunately what we had to work with. (For those having attended RMAF last year you might have had a chance to hear Arnie’s reference speakers).

The AN3s are boxed up and probably halfway to Chicago by the time you’re reading these words. If you’re going to the Axpona show in Chicago, please do drop by the PS Audio room and give them a listen. Ted Smith will be available to speak with folks (he’s always a treat) and engineer and loudspeaker designer Darren Myers will be in the room on Friday. On Saturday we’ll do a live Ask Paul video.

Yes, they are only a prototype, but I think they’re polished enough for savvy listeners to get a measure of what they’re all about.

And one final note. The cosmetics of the speaker have a lot of work left. Their base is too big, the frames around the drivers are ugly, the rears are unfinished, there’s no grille, and there will be cables and few boxes hanging off their rears. They are a prototype, after all, so cut them a little cosmetic slack if you can (though we’d love to get your feedback).

PS Audio is showing in a fairly big room on the ground floor behind registration. Hope to see you there!

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23 comments on “Building a new speaker Part 4”

  1. Would be interesting to hear the impression of some, how the speaker sounds with and without the rear firing tweeter in case you can demonstrate.

    Would you say the line source design of the IRS killers has no benefit over the AN3?

  2. I like(d) the video’s very much. Always nice entertainment. After all a video says more than a thousand words.
    I’m always surprised by the fact that some people think they can “assess” speakers by listening to them via their (crappy ?) little computer speakers.
    I doubt however if it’s useful and a wise decision to take them to Axpona while they’re far from completed !
    BTW, I also do love “undistorted, amazing dynamics”.
    Now all I have to do is convince my neighbors. Or move.
    A problem a lot of audiophiles share I think.

    1. <<<<<<
      „I’m always surprised by the fact that some people think they can “assess” speakers by listening to them via their (crappy ?) little computer speakers“
      <<<<<<

      I was extremely curious as well and this is certainly extremely limited, but since Paul’s demonstration of the resonance feet effect and also today’s sound example in a short recording I must say it’s possible to hear something….I never expected it.

      1. Oh, don ‘t get me wrong.
        I would absolutely love to hear them, even in the “unfinished” state.
        If I only had the chance.
        But alas, if it’s only for visiting an audio show, Chicago, USA, is too far away for a European.
        If the finished product eventually comes to my country, I certainly am going to “assess” them.
        Maybe in september or november, when I always visit a few big audio shows.
        But… the speakers used by the PSAudio distributor for a number of years already, are the outrageous (in a good way !) YG Acoustics speakers. The upcoming AN3’s will have a hard job to steal their glory.
        And at the end of the day, as with every speaker, ideally you gotta hear them in your own room. Try before buy. And we all know that’s more and more difficult these days.

  3. Having seen the last video I finally got a clue about your design concept and sound goals. There are some interesting technical ideas which should be easily put in a convincing marketing story – as seen with the technical deals behind the gain cell concept, the ten fold DSD story behind the DS DAC or the buffer concept of the DMP. I am not familiar with dipole line source speakers and their integration in a listening room. That is your and Arnie Nudell’s reference sound having the IRSV or the IRS Killer. When I started to go audiophile my reference sound was the sound from electrostatic headphones. The only speakers which could come near to their resolution and speed were spherical horn loudspeakers or planar speakers – unaffordable at those days. But that was the reference sound. Most classical speaker designs sounded just boxy. Today dynamic driver technology has made huge advantages as the manufacturing of artifact free speaker cabinets. However I don’t see any progress in passive crossover designs. My new reference sound also based on high resolution of course comes from a crossoverless widebander. I cannot see any way to maintain its resolution when trying to enrich the widebanders frequency range by adding super tweeters and (sub)woofers. I guess here DSP technology has to come into the game (similar to photography) allowing to come much nearer to the real sound by using active speaker concepts with user adjustable DSPs. It seems, Paul, you are on the right track. Best wishes for the next design steps.

  4. I enjoyed Part 4 the best. Especially the engineering honesty regarding the “current” failure of the new design AMT driver. For much of the public, design engineering is a fully defined science. The general belief is all that is required for any new design is plugging requirements into a canned program and a perfect fully functional product pops out. Very few people understand how computers only “aid” the oft messy design process.

    I have faith that your investment of time and money in the new AMT was not for nought. Every failure is a clue on the path to success. Although accountants are the hardest to convince of this engineering reality. But theirs is a plug and chug exact science.

    1. My first thought on the new AMT driver not sounding good is what if it has too much surface area in a single driver of that design. What if instead there were three or four smaller drivers? It just seems like the 10″ vertical pleats would tend to have more flexing within the pleats. I would imagine there is a sweet spot between vertical size and frequency range being produced.

      1. I think of it as 2 woofers back to back with the magnets touching and the cones facing away from each other. When one pushes out the other is pulling in and visa versa. Obviously 2 ribbon driver are no like 2 woofers but its how I visualize it. Then again I could be wrong ….. comments anyone?

  5. Hello Paul,
    Thank you for the mini-series, it was a joy to watch them.
    Clearly there is countless hours involved in building and designing a world class speaker and I believe your speakers will be successful especially at your target price point of $10k to $12k.
    I look forward to hearing a pair once they get up to a Canadian Dealer in Western Canada.

    Thanks again for sharing this great experience.

    Regards,

    John Foubert
    Calgary, Alberta

  6. Hey Paul,

    Please know that the cover of Video 4 is an “under construction” graphic. The video plays and was great fun.

    Looking forward to seeing you all at AXPONA!

    Best,
    Ken

  7. I was curious, I see some speaker companies use anechoic chambers to test new designs, does PS Audio do the same with the new speakers you are designing? How important is the anechoic chamber? I could really tell the difference in the sound in Arnie’s and Paul’s speakers through my Boston Acoustic small computer speakers, Paul’s sounded much better, more pleasant to the ear.

    1. We use a computer based measurement system that provides a quasi-anechoic response so we don’t need an anechoic chamber. It’s close enough to work well.

      How it works is interesting. The system sends out an impulse response and then measures the time it takes to get the sound back. You can see the impulse on the screen and then see the first arrival (sound from the speaker) followed by the delayed response from the room. All you need to do is then truncate the room response and what you get is essentially anechoic.

  8. Hi Paul,
    Since the quality of a recording is so critical as to how a loudspeaker sounds, you must have long since decided on the music tracks you’r going to to use to debute the AN3 prototype at Apxona, looking forward to it, if not the five hour drive there and back home. Could you please take a minute to post the music tracks you will be using ASAP, so I can purchase them if I dont already have them? I’d like to give the music tracks a thorough listening too before the show, so I have a frame of refernece. Thanks.
    Any speaker located 36″ or more from the rear wall and having an additional rear firing tweeter always has greater soundstage depth and a more spacious sound. The thing that has me most interested in your new AN3 prototype speakers is that you have described them to have that IRS type spacious depth of field sound, without needing to be located where the wife acceptance factor comes into play. In your videos, the AN3’s are located a meter or more from the back wall, which is understanable since they are clearly being tweeked still and being worked on. Question 2 – Will you be setting them up at the Chigago show to illustrate their WAF performance, and typical installation location, when placed 6″ – 12″ from the back wall, or will they be placed further out in the room, as in the video, for likely their best sound?

    1. I have made our demo list for the show available publicly. https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/2198171

      In order to use this list you need to be on Qobuz. We’ll be playing from this list of 96 tracks.

      We will have the speakers out in the room at the show for a couple of reasons: first it’s a new room and I really don’t know it and it’s always easier to put the speakers away from surfaces. Second, we haven’t yet developed our depth control knob feature. That’s still yet to come and much more work needs to be done to get there.

      This feature will ask the user to enter the distance from the wall behind the speakers into a control dial (a vernier) for the rough setup then fine tune the depth by ear. What’s happening in the control is a way we’ve invented to adjust for the different baffle size (think of the rear wall as an extended baffle at certain frequencies).

      1. Thanks Paul, great list of great sounding tunes, I listen to a lot of them on a regular basis, does this indicate I actually have good taste? at least in music : )
        Speaking of taste, my musical taste has changed a lot over the years. I find myself seeking out well recorded “music” of all genre, and I don’t enjoy, or listen to as much anymore, a lot of the poorly recorded music I use to enjoy 40 years ago, maybe i’m just getting old.
        Regarding, your AN3 placement setup, that makes sense.
        If you do end up nailing the distance from the back wall setting thing, you could definitely end up with a real winner if it produces the sound we crave yet satisfies the WAF.
        I had a sound system in a car once that you would enter the distance from each of the speakers to the drivers ears, sounded way better compared to when not engaged. I kinda think the distance measurement affected a unique time delay function for each speaker type thing.

  9. Thanks Paul, great list of great sounding tunes, I listen to a lot of them on a regular basis, does this indicate I actually have good taste? at least in music : )
    Speaking of taste, my musical taste has changed a lot over the years. I find myself seeking out well recorded “music” of all genre, and I don’t enjoy, or listen to as much anymore, a lot of the poorly recorded music I use to enjoy 40 years ago, maybe i’m just getting old.
    Regarding, your AN3 placement setup, that makes sense.
    If you do end up nailing the distance from the back wall setting thing, you could definitely end up with a real winner if it produces the sound we crave yet satisfies the WAF.
    I had a sound system in a car once that you would enter the distance from each of the speakers to the drivers ears, sounded way better compared to when not engaged. I kinda think the distance measurement affected a unique time delay function for each speaker type thing.

  10. Paul –

    Looking forward to PSA and AXPONA …

    Too bad your book’s not ready. Would have been a 99.9% great place for a book signing . Just saying …

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