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The Beatnik Pet Peeves Part One: Continued

Just because it is old, but not vintage doesn’t make it any less good. “Lowther Loudspeakers”

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Jack Roberts Beatnik's JourneyYes, Lowther loudspeakers are vintage, but the only time I see reviews of them is when someone tries a new method of using the drivers. So, I’m going to include them and especially the Teresonic Ingenium XR Silvers in my Pet Peeve #1. The Teresonic Ingenium has been around for around 10 years and the last review I’ve seen of this speaker was in 2008. So, it seems to me to fall between that area of the hottest new stuff and vintage.

Paul Voight released the “Domestic Corner Horn” in 1934. It is said to have set a new benchmark for high quality sound reproduction for it’s time and in someways until this day. His unique design gave an extremely alive sounding presentation. It was also in 1934 Paul Voigt met O. P. Lowther from the Lowther Manufacturing Company Ltd., and as they say the rest is history.

Together they were able to combine a low-mass paper cone with incredibly powerful magnets to produce a driver that had a voltage sensitivity over 100dB. Lowther did a lot of work on magnets, and after WWII released the new PM1 driver. It retained the same performance as the original Voigt but was easier to manufacture and use. This was an era of real success for Lowther. By the late 1950s, people began to want stereo and the search was on in most of the world to build smaller loudspeakers. Thank goodness, Lowther has continued to refine and produce their wonderful drivers to this day despite the fact they are most often used in fairly large cabinets.

As incredible as the eight inch Lowthers are they are still far from perfect; they have what is called the “Lowther Shout” which is a peak around 2,000 Hz. There have been lots of attempts at dealing with this problem. Back when the New York Mets were a new expansion team they had a pitcher one year who lost 19 games. My father said, “you have to be a really good pitcher to lose 19 games.” I asked him why and he said isn’t it obvious, no one would keep letting him pitch if he wasn’t really good. Well, the same principle is true here. There has to be and there surely is something about a speaker that audio enthusiast have continued to try to overcome that shout for 80 years.

The trend nowadays by Lowther lovers is to give up on taming the Lowther eight inch driver’s shout. Instead they try using or making a different driver that they hope will give all the glory of the Lowther without the shout. A few examples that come to mind are Voxativ, Rethm, and Feastrex. The problem is I haven’t heard one except for the $80,000 Feastrix and the $100,000 Voxativ that keeps the magic of the Lowther. Even then the Feastrix has no bass and will not play very loud. Then there are those who attempt to add woofers and tweeters, but with these attempts you lose the magical coherency of a single driver speaker.

Then there is the problem of reviewing speakers with Lowther drivers. The stories about how long Lowther drivers take to break in are true. I promise you the Teresonic Ingenium speakers I reviewed seven years ago sound very different today. Now I didn’t say they have improved the design or I have discovered the magical way to place them; truth is I still use them with the same amp as well. No, I simply mean they continued to improve for at least four years. They are also extremely revealing of the source you feed them. They are so revealing that small changes in front of them has significant effects on their sound. I will be honest with you, I have tuned my system around my Wavac EC-300B and my Teresonic Ingenium XR speakers with Lowther’s DX4 drives using silver wound voice coils. The Teresonic take on the Lowther is a speaker that is very chameleon-like, sound very much like what is front of them. Now I have heard Lowther speakers that aren’t like this. If the speaker designer doesn’t take care of the shout they very much have a sound of their own.

The Teresonic Team

The guys at Teresonic have strong pedigrees as musicians and engineers. Mike Zivkovic, CEO, co-founder, and all around great guy, has more than ten years of training in classical piano and clarinet. He graduated in acoustical engineering, and design. He worked for over 25 years in the high technology industry working for some of the world best known companies like Hewlett-Packard and Apple. Then he decide to focus on bringing out a speaker that would share with us his love for music.

His partner is Miles Dabic; Teresonic’s Chief Scientist is an accomplished engineer and has been designing speaker systems, audio cables and electronics since 1969. His research and ideas are behind advanced design of Teresonic speakers and cables. He has a degree in electrical engineering and an M.Sc. working in areas of logic arrays and signal processing in Manchester, England. Miles always found time for music and singing as a talented tenor performing works of old baroque masters, Scarlatti and Correlli, as well as works from Mendelssohn, Schubert, Mozart, Cherrubini, and Puccini. By the way Mile’s is a 300B lover like myself whereas Mike prefers the sound of 2A3s.

Sash Cerne is Teresonic’s master cabinetmaker. He has been designing and making loudspeakers and fine cabinetry for more than 20 years. He developed the process for making Teresonic speakers following centuries old and proven techniques used in making the finest music instruments combined with latest materials and technology. He personally oversees production of every single Teresonic cabinet to assure superb quality he has passion for.

Teresonic’s Design

They choose to deal with the Lowther shout not by electronics or modifying the driver; instead they use the cabinet and Helmholtz resonators in the cabinet to control the shout. Teresonic’s use of Helmholtz resonators as acoustically active elements to tame that famous shout is unique as far as I can find out. It is also highly successful in taming the shout. A Helmholtz resonator is a container of air with an open neck which lets a volume of air in and near the open hole it creates vibrations. There is much more on their website including mathematical formulas for those of you who want to explore such things.

These resonators are designed to “pick out” particular frequencies from a complex sound. They eliminate undesired “peaks and valleys” in the frequency spectrum produced by the drivers. Purely acoustical, rather than electronic elements, they are responsible for the exceptionally smooth sound of the Teresonic speakers without losing the magical aliveness of the Lowther drivers.

They are also designed to be as phase accurate and as coherent as possible. Our hearing is quite sensitive to phase accuracy. This lack of coherency is most easily heard heard in the reproduction of musical instruments and vocals. The fundamental problem created by lack of phase accuracy is that it leads to lost and corrupted harmonics, spatial and localization information, and micro-dynamics. This is especially hard to achieve in multi-driver speakers. To me phase accurate, very coherent, and highly efficient speakers, such as the Teresonics sound more alive, more musical, more dynamic, and more transparent than most speakers. This results in a more realistic and emotionally involving listening experience.

7 Responses to The Beatnik Pet Peeves Part One: Continued

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Jack,
    Of all the writers out there you and Jeff Day are two who have found what you were looking for and shout it from the rooftops. The Ingeniums have allowed you a much simpler less expensive route. Jeff’s Westminster Royal SEs come dear and then he discovered the Dueland external crossover adventure which ultimately cost as much as the Ingeniums.
    I for one really enjoy you guys enthusiasm for your systems.

    One thing that you touched on that I find relevant to my search is revisiting older speaker models that have stood the test of time. Now apparently all to be compared and contrasted to the O/96.
    (btw, I just saw where Art Dudley bought a pair. Apparently the test results and ensuing argument didn’t outweigh what a wonderful speaker it is. Writing a check being the ultimate vote of approval.)
    The Silverback is another speaker that interests me that hasn’t been reviewed since 06. I read somewhere that it is being upgraded.

    On another note, Whetstone in Austin is now a dealer for Thoress, the word is that Reinhard is the “Shindo of Germany”. This bears looking into Mr. Reviewer!

    As always it’s a joy reading your work.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Mike, Thanks for continuing to read my audio ramblings. I also enjoy reading Jeff’s great blog. Yes the Teresonics cost less than the Westminster Royal SEs, but still at the current price of $20,000 they are surely very expensive speakers by most people’s standards. I was lucky to buy mine nearly 8 years ago. I’m afraid why I thankfully can’t be tempted to use the Dueland caps, I have fallen to the equally expensive temptation of the incredible High Fidelity magnetic cables.

      None of what I wrote in this column should take anything away from what I said about the Orangutan O/96 speakers. They are simply incredible and will hold there own with either the Teresonics or the Westminster Royal SEs. I have not heard the Silverbacks in several years so I have no comment and do not own the right amps to review them. I have heard the Thoress electronics at shows, they sounded great, maybe I’ll check them out for review, but that depends on the importer and our publisher. Thanks again for reading Dagogo.

  2. alan trahern says:

    Okay, we’re two installments in on this “pet peeves” thing and, so far, all I’m seeing is a review of the writer’s own system. Are there actually any peeves on the horizon that we may one day catch up to ?

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Fair enough, thanks for reading them. The first two were the same pet peeve and I have to admit that I did indulge a bit, but I do think they are two products that shouldn’t be forgotten just because they aren’t the newest thing. Promise this is the last pet peeve that is about my equipment. The next one will be titled; “Pet Peeves #2 Any System Can Play That”.

  3. Bob says:

    Does the infamous Lowther shout really occur at 12,000Hz? I thought it was much lower. At that frequency not many would be able to hear it, especially anyone over 50.
    As a side issue for those who don’t want (have) $20k to spend, will the Teresonic Magus work in large rooms?


  4. Rod Venning says:

    Hi Jack.
    Thanks for the great article. Just one point (or one zero ). The Lowther “shout” should be 2000Hz…2150 is about the peak. Depending on the speaker model, peaks also occur in the highs.
    8000Hz and 10000Hz affect the DX series. My OB DX4/Slot-loaded open baffle bass system uses parametric DSP to achieve a reasonably flat response 17Hz to 12000Hz with great dynamics.
    A very easy and relatively cheap build. Cheers. Rod.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Bob and Rod you are both correct. 12,000 was a typo that should have said 2,000 and should have been caught. The difference between 12,000 and 2,000 is very important sonically, but not very obvious to a proof reader. Sorry I didn’t catch it and thanks for pointing it out. This changes nothing about the way Teresonic so successfully dealt with this infamous “shout.”

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