Can planar speakers work for me?

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by Shintsu, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. Shintsu Banned

    Shintsu
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    9
    So for whatever reason, Magnepans and other planar speaker designs keep showing up on Craigslist near me (The rest is the typical affair of old Fisher equipment and other common and mundane pieces). Going purely on the best speakers I've seen on there - there are a pair of Carver Amazing loudspeakers for $600 on there right now. God if I had the money and the space for those speakers...

    Anyway, my room is very small (Dimensions something like 10'x8'x8' - L x W x H) and I have only been using bookshelf speakers (and limiting my choices to such). So given my room is so small and I have a large L shaped desk filling the other side of the room with a hutch on one side would a planar speaker sound like absolute rubbish in my room? That is the fear I would have, there is plenty of room to allow it space behind it but on one side there is a window directly behind the speaker so I would think that would make the acoustics simply awful.

    I really hate that my room is so erm...incompatible with the ideal setup of a system but I have no alternative - I have to make it work in this room or do without. Whenever I find a new house I'm going to be sure to pre-locate a suitable home theater room. So as far as accurate imaging and soundstage would planar speakers like Magnepans sound worth diddly in my room or am I better off to keep looking at bookshelf speakers? I almost feel like buying some of those Magnepans and just sticking them in the closet until I am somewhere they can be used properly. I certainly couldn't imagine the Carver Amazing speaker sounding as good as it could in a well setup room in my room (In fact, would it even sound that good considering some of the flaws of my room setup?).

    So one other closing question - in a situation like mine what determines sound quality more: The room layout or the actual speaker itself? I mean my current speakers still sound good in my room but I don't know if possibly they could sound better if the room were setup different. There aren't any tonal characteristics that I dislike about my current sound other than perhaps my subwoofer could be better - but I plan to replace it when I find a worthwhile replacement I can afford that will be superior.
  2. jliedeka Audioholic General

    jliedeka
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,181
    Likes Received:
    311
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin
    I wouldn't recommend planar speakers in a small room. They need to be well out from the back wall and from side walls to take advantage of their strengths.

    The dipole radiation pattern of planar speakers is nice because it will excite fewer room modes. The down side is that they don't have a ton of dynamic range and they aren't really great for bass. In a bigger room, I'd consider a hybrid system like Martin Logans that have a dynamic woofer for low frequencies.

    In your current room, I'd stick with some decent monitors and maybe add a small sub if you want more bass.

    Jim
    • Like Like x 1
  3. WmAx Audioholic Samurai

    WmAx
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Messages:
    5,177
    Likes Received:
    1,424
    If you use properly placed acoustic treatment panels, they can work superbly in your small room. Mostly absorbers, and a few diffusor panels will be needed.

    Carver Amazing speakers don't really take up that much floor space. They are just very tall.

    -Chris
    WmAx,
  4. Shintsu Banned

    Shintsu
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    9
    This was what I was thinking - planar speakers seem well suited in a larger room just not one as compact as mine. While not a planar speaker, I don't suppose something like time aligned DCM Time Frames or Time Windows would work that well in my room either? I'm sitting roughly 3-4 feet away from my front speakers (Also setup that way in the receiver). I suppose one other question that could tie off that too - what audible difference would there be if I went from purely bookshelf speakers to tower main speakers? I can fit some of the slender tower speakers in here - especially the kind with all the drivers at the very top of the cabinet.

    I more than anything want crystal imaging - sound that makes it sound like when I close my eyes I am really listening to a live performance or that I'm actually in the middle of a movie scene.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2009
  5. WmAx Audioholic Samurai

    WmAx
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Messages:
    5,177
    Likes Received:
    1,424
    If you are going to sit nearfeild (3-4 feet) ,then you need to get a speaker with the mid-range and tweeter that are in very close proximity. A small 2 way with truncated midbass and treble frames is ideal - it will have very similar response close and far away. A 2 way well built monitor is usually superior to a floor standing model - as the 2 way will have far less cabinet surface area to resonate (a serious issue that reduces sound quality - and one of the biggest things allowing planar/esl speakers to have such high resolution sound - they typically lack most of the traditional cabinet - so it can't resonate in the first place). You are best to use dual high quality subwoofers, combined to the monitors using an active crossover, and this will give you the same perfect seemless integration as a 3 way floor speaker, but with less cabinet resonance and likely higher fidelity bass (as you do not usually find the same quality/capability woofers in a full range tower as compared to dedicated powered subs of decent quality). You do need to have seperate pre-amp, or a stereo receiver with direct AMP IN/PREAMP OUT feeds in the back that are shorted with a shorting bar, in order to properly use a high quality external active crossover. Note: a high quality active xover need not be expensive. Behringer makes a model for $90 that uses extremely high quality components, power supply, switches and potentiometers, and will provide transparent operation for any level of sound system. It has infinite variable frequency settings with 4th order L-R filter slopes. More advanced DSP models can allow you to gain higher sound quality by being able to compensate for some room low frequency response errors and being able to make subtle and precision response changes to your monitors.

    -Chris
    WmAx,
    • Like Like x 3
  6. Shintsu Banned

    Shintsu
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    9
    That helps a good deal, I figured tower speakers wouldn't do well in this room and rightly so it seems. Let me ask though, in your opinion are my Infinity Qe speakers something that fit this description you're talking about? Photo of said speakers below - one additional thing to note, they are sealed speakers:
    [​IMG]
    Do you believe dual subwoofers are really necessary in such a small room as mine? That presents a problem as far as locating them somewhere. The only option I can draw off the top of my head is to buy a pair of lowboy stands and put my speakers on those and set the lowboy stands on top of the subwoofers. But I always figured one quality sub would be sufficient - if I can find one reasonably that is. Additionally, my Denon has pre-outs for each input including the subwoofer, but not in the way you describe (My Luxman I used to have was like that). So in your idea, I would need to buy another piece and both subwoofers would go into this single piece and then connect to my receiver?
  7. jliedeka Audioholic General

    jliedeka
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,181
    Likes Received:
    311
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin
    If you want the absolute best fidelity for two channel, I would recommend two subs that are actually stereo. That means one is crossed over from the left speaker and one from the right.

    The advantage is that if you have low frequency information in both left and right channels that is 180 degrees out of phase, it will cancel out and you get nothing from a single sub. That seems to be fairly rare in my experience but worth considering. If you have stereo subs, the information will get reproduced by the subs.

    For the more common cases where the low frequencies are the same (or pretty close) in both channels, having two subs will still help to even out the frequency response in your room.

    I'm currently using a single large sub for a 5 channel system but I plan to move to stereo subs in the future. The sound I'm getting now is pretty good but I'm always trying to improve it. The speaker room interface dominates all other factors for sound quality. Quality speakers and subs, correctly positioned, can make a big difference.

    Jim
  8. Shintsu Banned

    Shintsu
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    9
    I am indeed going for the full surround experience (7.1) so while I enjoy stereo mode, primarily I will use it in surround mode (Either DTS or THX depending on the supported media format). Would the recommendation for dual subs be the same in a 7.1 (Or what would be a 7.2) system?
  9. WmAx Audioholic Samurai

    WmAx
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Messages:
    5,177
    Likes Received:
    1,424
    No matter what, when you increase the number of subwoofers distributed around the room, the bass will tend to smooth and be of higher quality at multiple positions. For stereo, the added integration is critical to get complex bass, like cello, bass guitar, etc.; so sound as a single, cohesive unit through the lower to upper bass where it crosses to the L and R mains. Really, the only time a single sub usually blends perfectly is when you have it crossed over very steeply (4th order xover) at 50-55Hz, and no higher.

    -Chris
    WmAx,
  10. lsiberian Audioholic Overlord

    lsiberian
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Messages:
    12,173
    Likes Received:
    3,155
    Location:
    On A Bridge in Fort Worth
    yes. The more drivers you have the easier it is to fill the room with bass.
  11. markw Audioholic Overlord

    markw
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2003
    Messages:
    11,236
    Likes Received:
    3,050
    Location:
    Joisey and Texas
    Since i own Maggies, that's all I can comment on but I do know that mine require a few feet of air behind them and to their sides as well to sound good.

    Take it from there.
  12. Shintsu Banned

    Shintsu
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hmm, well I do have my subwoofer crossed over pretty low - I'm not sure that it's 50 Hz, it's whatever the THX official crossover is. I set the crossover in the receiver but I've adjusted the knob on the back of the subwoofer too - I finally achieved as best a balance as I think possible with this subwoofer. It's really a bother trying to set two crossovers and then adjusting volume levels from the receiver and the subwoofer too...I feel it might not be as much of an issue on a more high quality subwoofer that is more linear in volume level adjustment (mine was just a hair too loud, turn it a little bit to the left - too quiet now...did this for weeks before I got it where I wanted it).
  13. MidnightSensi Audioholic Samurai

    MidnightSensi
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    Messages:
    2,289
    Likes Received:
    902
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    If you are using the crossover in the receiver, than do /not/ use the knob on the back of the subwoofer. Just turn it all the way up or look for a 'bypass' switch. If you use both crossovers, they will interfere with one anther, so just use the crossover on the receiver.
  14. JerryLove Audioholic Samurai

    JerryLove
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    2,219
    Likes Received:
    601
    Location:
    Tampa, FL
    90Hz

    As mentioned: do *not* adjust the crossover setting on the sub. Set it at its highest value.

    You may have been adjusting the gain. There's more than one way to skin that cat. I zero the receiver, and then try to match the sub by ear. Once that's done, I do my speaker calibration, including sub, with the AVR. I think I was dead on last time, because my sub is still +0db.

Share This Page

  • EMPTek.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis
  • CEDIA