Building a world-class Horn system for Small Rooms

After nearly 7 years, I think it's time to create a thread for my journey, in the hopes that it may inspire or help others with their own audiophile ambitions. My hypothesis was that world-class reproduction could be achieved in a small (~11'5" x 12'8" x 7'8) room. I think I have achieved it. I will post more photos and videos of playback over the next few months.

While my audiophile journey started many years before, the desire to create a world-class (almost) no holes barred system for my media room started with a visit to Oswald's Mill Audio (OMA) in Brooklyn and reading their (now removed) DIY meet summaries ("OMA Tastings"). If you have never heard a well-designed horn system close this window and go and find one, then come back. OMA has a beautiful showroom in Brooklyn. You should also listen to the Klipsch Jubilee at HiFi Loft in NYC (I have no affiliation and have never been). Be careful with horns from other manufacturers - not saying there aren't others, but it's more hit than miss.
 
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Be careful with horns from other manufacturers - not saying there aren't others, but it's more hit than miss.
Interesting choice of words. I wouldn't say one needs to 'be careful' so much as audition different horns so that you can determine the horn landscape and gravitate towards your preference. Of course, I would be prudent buying any loudspeakers, regardless of whether or not they were horns, typical arrays, panels, etc. If you're considering an audition at OMA, (which I would recommend), at that price point I would also suggest the following: Cessaro at High Water Sound a few miles away, the aforementioned Jubilees at the Loft also in NYC...then I would head north a few hours to hear Jeffrey Jackson's latest as well as A for Ara's by Rob Kalin, (both in Catskill, NY) then you can head 3 hours east to the North Shore of Boston, where you can hear the Destination Horns/System, and perhaps even get to hear the Vitavox horns with the full Natural Sound system. That's a decent amount of horn goodness in a relatively small geography.
 
Interesting! Had no idea about many of these. It’s great to see so much proliferation and choice in a very niche segment of the industry.
A for Ara looks a lot like Wheel-Fi, Jeff Jackson’s last venture. Same co-founders now split off?
 
Interesting! Had no idea about many of these. It’s great to see so much proliferation and choice in a very niche segment of the industry.
A for Ara looks a lot like Wheel-Fi, Jeff Jackson’s last venture. Same co-founders now split off?
Yes, Wheelfi was Jeffrey Jackson (with iron largely by Dave Slagle) and Rob Kalin. A for Ara is Rob and Bill Cowan for the most part. Jeffery is back doing his own thing at Experience Music.
 
Fred, when will the Destination Audio's new small footprint Ruby model be ready? As you know, I have been dying to bring some horns and SE tube goodness my southern California showroom but waiting because of my small to medium listening room size.
 
Very nice design and execution. I look for horn developments all the time and rarely is found something of this caliber. My complements. Might you mention please something about the character of the Supravox 285EXC in the horn? Having worked with similarly folded horns and experimenting with the rear driver propagation I also found the open approach worked best. Very rare to see it.
 
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Very nice design and execution. I look for horn developments all the time and rarely is found something of this caliber. My complements. Might you mention please something about the character of the Supravox 285EXC in the horn? Having worked with similarly folded horns and experimenting with the rear driver propagation I also found the open approach worked best. Very rare to see it.
Thanks! Spent a lot of time researching and learning from the DIY community, especially.
 

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Character of the Supravox 285-2000 in the horn: I would summarize it as very natural, with seamless blending to the midrange. It sounds like nothing is there (doesn’t call attention to itself). Cello for example sounds very natural.
I just changed the wire from the crossover to the drivers, from Dueland 16GA to 12GA. The 12 provides a more palpable, richer, bass! I don’t feel like there’s anything to change or improve.

I recently heard the Chronosonic XVX, as I’m considering these for a possible future second home. Honestly, I think the midrange is more realistic, especially with vocals, with the RCA1443 and these conical horns. Yes, the XVX are better overall, but I didn’t expect the midrange to sounds better with these RCA1443 drivers.
 
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Slightly new topic: Surround Sound in a small room.
I have a 4.1.2 system: 2 front (including an active sub), 2 overhead, 2 rear and a massive dual driver sub for LFE (ordered). The Trinnov makes these sound like there are ~20 speakers. There’s no need for a center channel - which I believe it the case for most rooms.

Recently acquired an Apollon 4-channel Purifi 7040 to power the surround speakers. This replaced a McIntosh MI254 which was absolute garbage (both the amp and McIntosh “service”!)
Here are the first impressions:
Let me start by saying that it’s beautifully made. I don’t think anyone else offers custom paint and has such a solid chassis. The high end connectors are also a welcome upgrade over my previous McIntosh MI254 (which was junk - see below). My rack is against the wall and suspended from the ceiling, which makes connections tricky as I have to do them ‘blind’. Having nice solid connectors goes a long way to making the connections in these types of setups.

Being able to customize the paint is another nice touch. The paint quality is very good and I’m happy with the custom color. Since my components come from a variety of manufacturers (e.g., Trinnov, DarTZeel, and Nagra), they don’t look consistent. To mitigate that, I wanted all amplification to look similar, which meant coming close to the DarTZeel’s unique gold and red paint scheme. I knew it would never be a perfect match, largely because the DarTZeel is anodized, but this comes close, especially with the lights down.

Selectable gain is another important feature. Matching gain is crucial to maximize dynamic range in a system with a pre-amp and DAC from different vendors. Setting it to 20.5dB is quite close to the Trinnov amp’s 19dB. If your gain is not matched and optimized among the devices that amplify the signal you are reducing dynamic range to avoid clipping - it’s that simple.

More importantly, how does the amp sound? It’s just been a day, but immediate impressions are great. First of all, the power supply does not buzz like the McIntosh amp did. (McIntosh said it was “normal” and no, it was not audible from the listening position, but it still gave a poor first impression.) Secondly, there is absolutely zero background noise/hiss from my 94dB sensitive speakers. Given the amount of power available from the Purifi 7040 I thought there would be some noise… nope! (And just as Tibor said.)

Overall, I highly recommend Apollon — great products and Tibor is always professional and reachable.

Family photo ;)
 

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Thanks! It's been a fun and interesting journey. I'm glad I did it, after OMA turned me away(*), but I would not do the DIY route again.

For a second media room, I currently have the Klipsch Jubilee and Wilson XVX on my short list. Yes, the Wilson are not horns, but that's ok. With a large, purpose-built room and at that level, they should and do sound great. (I don't think they quite match the midrange tone on vocals of my RCA1443 + Bill Woods' conical horns though!).

[* After calling out OMA on why they claim that a ~90dB efficient speaker can be adequately powered by a ~2W amp (they can't!), Weiss told me to get lost. And that was at the start of a journey in which I spent close to $500K (speakers alone were a lot less). I just had to share as it's too funny and it brings to mind that scene in Pretty Woman.]
Weiss is an interesting character. Rightfully extols the virtues of tube amplifications and horns, but acts like he’s the only person on earth who can do either correctly. Don’t even get me started on the pricing.
 
Weiss is an interesting character. Rightfully extols the virtues of tube amplifications and horns, but acts like he’s the only person on earth who can do either correctly. Don’t even get me started on the pricing.
“Interesting” is the highly diplomatic way to describe him.
I was going to spend a considerable sum on a complete system from OMA; but when I questioned Weiss on his claim that the OMA Mini (~90 dB efficient) can be “more than adequately” powered by his Parallax (~2W) amp, he reversed course and became verbally belligerent and told me to shop elsewhere. (And that I did, and then some!!)

OMA products are beautiful. All of his designs are “borrowed” [again, being diplomatic] from others. For years, he hosted DIY events where talented audiophiles would show him their products. He then created OMA based on those designs. I never saw any credit given to those designers, other than to Bill Woods (whose horns I also use) — probably because he had to source horns from Bill.

Ultimately, OMA/Fischer products are not as great as he claims, or there would be more of a following. His personality certainly does not help. Years ago I decided to never do discretionary business with someone I didn’t like or respect. Even if the products are better and less expensive than anything else, I still wouldn’t touch OMA.
Anyway, I digress.
 
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Are there any issues with the larger horns being in the path of the smaller central brass one?

I'm new to thinking about horns, but it seems hard to balance having them close (for 1/4 wavelength considerations) and potential interference.

Beautiful looking design.
 
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Are there any issues with the larger horns being in the path of the smaller central brass one?
It's hard to tell from the angles but they are not in the path. The smaller drivers are the super tweeters, and high frequencies are highly directional - so it's important to have tweeters aimed at ear height.
 
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Another update on the benefits of reducing field coil power supply vibration:
I recently installed the @Seismion Reacto active isolation base. All I can say is WOW!

On a track I play often (Theme from The Godfather, Sound of Movies), I can now hear the breathes taken between notes from the lead trumpet. Notes sound more "alive" and "stable" in the room, especially during dynamic and loud passages. Focus, on mono tracks for example, is considerably improved.

Once you've heard what an active isolation base can do, there's really no going back.

Of the available units, Seismion makes the best. From those who have compared it directly (there's a thread about it here) to others, it's seen as the best. It also costs considerably less. (Taiko made one, called the Tana, which was ~4X more expensive and it's no longer available - perhaps that one was better).

Here is the WVL field coil PSU sitting on a Taiko Daiza base and that is sitting on the Seismion.

tempImage9ZAbZB.jpg
 
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OK- I would not have expected that at all!
Me too! Completely unexpected.
I realize that $5k is not by any means cheap; but if you can try it I think it’s an easy buy, especially if it represents a small fraction of the total cost of your system. You can flip the power switch off to compare with and without vibration attenuation.
I think vibration control is the next frontier in high end audio — we seem to have reached the pinnacle of AC power filtration and ground noise reduction.
 

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