Speaker Grilles On Or Off: Which Way Sounds Better?

How do you listen to your speakers?

  • Grilles On

    Votes: 9 42.9%
  • Grilles Off

    Votes: 10 47.6%
  • What are grilles?

    Votes: 2 9.5%

  • Total voters
    21
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Ratings
4,294 33 17
#1
Let’s talk about loudspeaker grilles- you know, those things that cover the front of your speakers and make them look boring. Many people, for whatever reason, seem to prefer their loudspeaker appearance with the grilles on. But grilles aren’t just about the aesthetics of the speaker, they also protect it from harm and abuse- like say, a rambunctious child or pet who may otherwise damage the delicate cone of the woofer or dome of the tweeter. Most home audio loudspeaker grilles are removable though, so their use is optional for most domestic applications. Given how fussy audio enthusiasts can be, the use of grilles has been a point of strong personal preference for as long as there have been home audio loudspeakers.

But how do grilles really affect the sound? Since there are so many different speaker designs out there, the answer to that question could never be an absolute yes or no, at least without knowing the characteristics of that particular speaker. However, in our experience, grilles usually do not improve loudspeaker performance. In this article, we will explain how and why grilles tend to have an adverse effect on the speaker's performance, and we will also talk about how much they can actually spoil the sound quality.


READ: Speaker Grilles On Or Off: Which Way Sounds Better?
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
891
#2
Nice one, Shady! Thanks. And a lot of good advice there for people with acoustic issues due to speaker placement.

Cheers!
 
Bucknekked

Bucknekked

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
1,290 7 34
#3
Great article @shadyJ . One of those baseline topics about speakers I think everyone wonders about, but very few actually investigate. Thanks for doing some of the legwork. When I had kids at home: grilles in place to protect the sensitive surfaces. When we had cats: same deal, grilles in place. Now that we have neither at home, its grilles off and I like seeing the actual speakers doing their work.

Its also great that you mentioned bookshelf speakers actually don't belong on most bookshelves. I think that's an idea that hasn't actually penetrated the unwashed masses either.
 
John Parks

John Parks

Full Audioholic
Ratings
223 1 1
#4
Nice write up! As I was reading, Paradigm and Vandersteen were two brands that came to mind as designed with grills "required" but you stole my thunder!
 
Bucknekked

Bucknekked

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
1,290 7 34
#7
If you see your speakers doing their work, then you must be driving them at pretty loud levels? :D
in my minds eye I see them working. I don't know that I ever actually see them doing much. Its one of those things I was really disappointed in when I watched a subwoofer play. The dang thing hardly moves. I was exepcting something dramatic. It turned out pretty boring. I'm thankful for my minds eye. Much better images in there.
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
891
#8
Don't know why, but there's something I find enjoyable about seeing the woofers dance when it's cranking.
That's probably about 1mm from over-excursion! When I tested my sealed Mini-Phils (as mains) and played a Rza cut from the second Gravediggaz album, I knew fear: that 5" Zaph Audio cone was dancing and I envisioned the "nose-cone" in the middle launching into my eye as I watched...
Its all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Ha!
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Ratings
4,682 11 6
#9
When you see that woofer (or sub woofer) dance, it's because they're getting signals at their resonance frequency. In a ported speaker, most of the sound you hear is coming from the port vent. Little or no sound is coming from the woofer cone, despite the highly visible dance.

In that sense, sealed speakers are less entertaining to watch.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,935 18 47
#10
Don't really find drivers all that attractive generally, even put grills on my diy subs. I hve wondered how much difference a really thick frame might have, or ones that are more than just a frame around the edges (like the ones that more appear as cutouts in a baffle for the drivers).

Then there are the grills/cabinets like my S590s, wonder what the measurement differences would be on vs off? They're engineered to be on to an extent....but I still really don't want to look at them particularly....might have to play around with the measurement mic next time around....
590 grill off.jpg
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
853 2
#11
Don't really find drivers all that attractive generally, even put grills on my diy subs. I hve wondered how much difference a really thick frame might have, or ones that are more than just a frame around the edges (like the ones that more appear as cutouts in a baffle for the drivers).

Then there are the grills/cabinets like my S590s, wonder what the measurement differences would be on vs off? They're engineered to be on to an extent....but I still really don't want to look at them particularly....might have to play around with the measurement mic next time around....
View attachment 28288
What a nice set of speakers you have there my friend!
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
853 2
#12
Great article Shady! I'm also wondering if companies like golden ear and def tech design there's that way with the famous socks the use. But come to think of it those are just socks no grill is really used so it should not really impact the sound at all
 
Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
721 6 27
#13
A well designed ported enclosure will damp the woofer or subwoofer displacement at its resonant frequency and it's cone will barely move. It's when the woofer is driven at frequencies below the box tuned frequency that you will see it moving. Since it is completely unloaded below the tuned frequency, it becomes subjected to destruction by displacement beyond its xmax.
 
Last edited:
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Ratings
4,294 33 17
#14
Don't really find drivers all that attractive generally, even put grills on my diy subs. I hve wondered how much difference a really thick frame might have, or ones that are more than just a frame around the edges (like the ones that more appear as cutouts in a baffle for the drivers).

Then there are the grills/cabinets like my S590s, wonder what the measurement differences would be on vs off? They're engineered to be on to an extent....but I still really don't want to look at them particularly....might have to play around with the measurement mic next time around....
View attachment 28288
The grilles won't affect much from the woofers, but they could possibly be affecting output from the tweeter, since it does slightly change the geometry of the horn. In measurements, I would expect to see an slight increase in horn diffraction. I think that it would probably be very difficult to actually hear.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,935 18 47
#15
The grilles won't affect much from the woofers, but they could possibly be affecting output from the tweeter, since it does slightly change the geometry of the horn. In measurements, I would expect to see an slight increase in horn diffraction. I think that it would probably be very difficult to actually hear.
Actually there's a separate piece to add back to the horn should you want to use them without the grills, didn't put that in the pic.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Ratings
4,294 33 17
#16
Actually there's a separate piece to add back to the horn should you want to use them without the grills, didn't put that in the pic.
In that case, it looks like the grille piece adds an intended piece of the horn geometry, in which case those speakers should measure the same with or without grilles.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,935 18 47
#17
In that case, it looks like the grille piece adds an intended piece of the horn geometry, in which case those speakers should measure the same with or without grilles.
Was wondering if any effects in the midrange as in some of your measurements, crossover is listed at 1.5khz.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Ratings
4,294 33 17
#18
Was wondering if any effects in the midrange as in some of your measurements, crossover is listed at 1.5khz.
Not likely, since the wavelength of 1.5 kHz is 8.6 inches, so it will be too big for the grille frames to have any effect around the woofers. One funny thing I remember about some youtube review of these speakers that I saw a couple years ago is that the reviewer talked about 590's using a waveguide around the woofers. Not likely with 8" woofers. If you wanted an effective waveguide around 8" woofers, it would have to be just huge.
 
B

Beave

Full Audioholic
Ratings
216 1
#19
When you see that woofer (or sub woofer) dance, it's because they're getting signals at their resonance frequency. In a ported speaker, most of the sound you hear is coming from the port vent. Little or no sound is coming from the woofer cone, despite the highly visible dance.

In that sense, sealed speakers are less entertaining to watch.
In a ported speaker, at the resonant frequency, the sound is coming from the port, but the woofer cone isn't moving much at all. It's below the resonant frequency (and to a lesser extent, above it) where the woofer moves a lot.

In a sealed speaker, the woofer moves a lot around the resonant frequency.

edit: verdinut beat me to it.
 

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