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RE: Heard a reference level planar speaker last Saturday

You may not have seen my original replay to TYU. What I said was, "I daresay most of us have seen and heard Apogees. I wasn't impressed -- the ones I heard were very poorly voiced. Since I never heard them in a home, I wouldn't debate Morricab's assessment." In other words, I was responding to TYU's claim that "most here have never seen a pr [sic] of Apogees," rather than debating your conclusions. I've discussed the Apogees with many here.

In any case, what I heard at CES wasn't in any case different from what critics have reported, including you in your review. But I think it's also clear from both reviews and published measurements that not all Apogees suffered from those tuning issues. In particular, I'd love to hear the Grand.

While I haven't heard Apogees under ideal conditions, I'm not as you suggest unfamiliar with other panels. I don't think anyone would suggest that planar magnetic magnetic speakers are as transparent as electrostatics or true ribbons. This essentially comes down to the waterfall plot: the more steeply the plot of a driver falls off, the more detailed and transparent a driver is.

Unfortunately, stats typically have other problems, e.g, SPL and bass limitations, beaming, and "plasticky" diaphragm resonances. It's possible to find stats that fix one or another of these problems but if there were a stat out there that solves these problems and wasn't twice the size of my listening room, I'd buy it, because I agree -- my ideal speaker would combine the transparency of the Stax with the slam of the Betas.

A friend of mine had Betas. They were ertainly gutsy speakers, but they lacked coherence, with each frequency range emanating from a different height. I wasn't sorry to go back to my 1-D's, which had a naturalism that the Betas, impressive as they were, lacked. The IRS V was IMO in a different class entirely.

I see that Roger has already addressed the bass. I'm guessing that the problem here is that Apogee couldn't get around Magnepan's patents. They used an Olson-style truncated pyramid to spread the resonances but couldn't tailor the response the way Magnepan can. Hence the fact that so many of their woofers have good extension but a boomy fundamental resonance that can be as much as 10 dB on the response plots. As you point out, that can now be fixed with DSP.

Another problem with the Apogees, and one that apparently contributed to the demise of the company, was that midrange ribbons don't last very long. Even tweeter ribbons will eventually fail when played at very high SPL's due to fatigue. The excursion of midrange ribbons is significantly higher and apparently Apogee had a lot of in-warranty failures which were very costly to fix. Which is too bad, since ribbons have some real advantages. If you could figure out how to make a replaceable low-mass ribbon assembly in a non-labor-intensive way, that might solve the problem. Something that snaps in like the ribbon assembly on the Raal's. You'd have to deal with a long, fragile ribbon that has to be aligned with great precision since the slightest misalignment will give you harmonic distortion or rubbing. Then it wouldn't matter if it had to be replaced once a year.

Since neither of us have heard the 20.7's, I don't think we should judge it. But I gather that they've reduced the mass of the midrange so it's now more stat-like. According to Jonathan Valin, it isn't as transparent as a CLX, but it's very transparent indeed. Here's how he described it:

"Second, you won't get quite the same microscopic inner detail you get with certain electrostats, such as the MartinLogan CLXes, or the current kings of low-level resolution chez Valin, the Raidho C1.1 two-way mini-monitors. Not that I think that anyone will actively pine for more detail when listening to the 20.7sóby any reasonable standard they are incredibly high-resolution transducers capable of bringing out nuances that the majority of other speakers, including speakers that cost a good deal more than they do, simply don't know are there. All you have to do is put on a recording like the Melodiya LP of Prokofiev's First Violin Sonata and listen to the clarity and realism with which the 20.7s reproduce the incredible variety of the great Gidon Kremer's bow strokes (a fantastic panoply of articulations) to grasp, in an instant, how high in detail (both instrumental and performance-related) these big Maggies really are. (The 20.7 features a newly designed quasi-ribbon midrange driver, which is said to have half the mass of the quasi-ribbon panel in the 3.7, making for a better fit with the featherweight tweet and the highest midband resolution of any single-panel Maggie I've auditioned.) Unless you're intimately familiar with the sound of the Raidhos or the Logans or the Magico Q5s, you'll never dream that you're missing anything (and you aren't missing much)."

He also refers to dynamic compression, but he makes the same point about the dynamic range limitations of the CLX's.

I'm very familiar with the Eminent Tech drivers, I have a pair on my desk, and while they're very, very good they aren't as transparent as stats, either. Fine as the Eminent's are, I don't think you'll get what you're looking for, which I assume is stat-like detail.



Edits: 05/14/12 05/14/12 05/14/12

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