Visit to Audiophile Bill to hear his horns project

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Part One

Hi everyone. I've known Bill via the forum after an introduction from Ked, and have struck up a solid friendship predominantly online, and a small handful of meets over the years. He's always been a great person to turn to, his help has been invaluable to getting my system to turnaround (he put me right on tt/arm/cart setup which has transformed my sound off lp, and he got me to dump Rollerblocks from under my Zus, which led to a big step up in SQ).

In return, I've tortured him with circular comments and questions, and no little amount of self agrandisement, and in his way he's put up with my ways with true British stoicism (sorry, Bill Lol).

Anyhow, in the course of chatting with him, it became apparent he'd been bitten badly by the horns/SETs bug, so much so he'd resolved to move on from his big Focals to a first pair of horns and then BD Swings horns.

And around this time he intimated he was going to design and build a pair that would be as uncompromising as possible. Now if you know anything about Bill, you'll know he talks the talk...and walks the walk. And so he started talking and walking Lol.

Ongoing comms led to him divulging some of his ideas. I know he loved his Swings and The General's Pnoes. This led him to favouring the full range BD driver from AER. Good to 20Hz and all the way down. Despite the Pnoe being hugely impressive, noone could ever say it convinces below 40Hz, and so to reach a lot lower, Bill worked on various bass solutions. And Bill has refused to allow any compromises on his prototype, so...no plastic in his horns, all mahogany. No stupid disparity in efficiency between horns and sub drivers...the latter over 100dB efficient and able to be powered Class A Mosfets. No cheap MDF for Bill...he's settled on a Panzerholz spine for the speaker, and literally whole felled trees' worth of wood forming his baffles and superstructure. Crossover is minimal I believe.

So, after arriving, him pouring me a cold draft beer (useful after 90 mins drive), and chatting all things life with him, we got down to seeing and hearing these things in person after 12-18 months teasing from him.

I cannot tell you how impressive these things are. Smart and purposeful. I don't think I've ever seen a solid mahogany horn, what 30"/75cm diameter, and stretching back 36"/90cm+. That horn on it's own should earn Bill his stripes. It houses the BD driver, all the way to 20kHz, rolled off at 170Hz.

This then moves on to 4x 15" high efficiency sub drivers, effectively side mounted but firing into each other, Ripole style, into a central chamber that has some elaborate woodwork chambers. The front baffle is effectively split in half, with a narrow grille over this chamber that the subs fire into. Bill has a very particular mathematical choice he made on how he mounted these subs, but I've been sworn to secrecy.

So effectively there are no visible bass drivers, just a smart split baffle topped off with his majestic main horn.

He also showed me around and inside the speaker...I don't think I've ever seen such a fantastic level of craftsmanship and heroic attention to detail. Bill's threat to go all the way wasn't idle.

The overall aesthetic effect is of a fantastic heirloom/artisan crafted product, so different from so much, even highly touted and priced pieces. The effect is of simple beauty, careful lines, and solid timeless craft.

And then it was time to listen...
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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E. England
Part two

Listening impressions. Well, no two horns are the same. I've heard a small handful I really like, and more I actively dislike. So, what to expect?

Well, I've rarely if ever heard in a speaker what I heard at Bill's. An amazing balance of warmth and detail, and a really impressive tonal balance, natural timbre, and totally correctly-scaled image. Bill played a mix of classical and jazz for me, and I was impressed greatly by the warm solid tone, instruments really sounding authentic, and the most natural soundstage I've yet heard from horns.

The next thing that absolutely struck me was the ability to really keep up with the music. We played some really dynamic classical and jazz that absolutely galloped and hit crescendos, and there was zero stress or drivers hardening. Total listener relaxation as the music wound higher and higher.

Another interesting facet was the fact that 8x 15" subs did not overpower the room, which is probably on the small side for speakers with this prowess. No, bass was tidy and controlled, and only burst thru when needed. A result of Bill's careful choice of drivers and hard work at integration. No boxy colourations or subs-horn disconnect.

We played one lp of mine, and it was hugely entertaining. No doubt horns are always best with more stellar sounding material, but I was engrossed all the same.

My conclusions? Horns are so variable, and most have Achilles heels that let the side down. Bill's horns are as seamless, warm, extended, and critically, natural and holistic, as you're likely to get from horns in their configuration/footprint. Obviously examples like AG Trios or Cessaro Zetas are gonna sound bigger and maybe brasher. But in the more manageable sector that Bill's horns represent, the SQ may be unbeatable.

And critically, the package of both stellar sound and possibly most artisanal speaker on the market, certainly in all horns short of Vox Olympian, makes it a compelling package.

Bravo, Bill, bravo. And thanks for giving me the honour of being the first person to report on them.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Playlist
Ana Moura/Desfado
Cannonball Aderley/Quintet in San Francisco
Neil McSweeney/A Coat Worth Wearing
Dvorak/New World
Haydn/Piano Trios/Beaux Arts
Eric Truffaz/The Mask
Goldfrapp/Felt Mountain
Stomu Yamashta/Go
 

Alrainbow

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Dec 12, 2013
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Did Bill make you sign an ND ..? If not where are the pics ...!
:rolleyes:


Send in Ked .... :)
 
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Audiophile Bill

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Hi Marc,

Thank you ever so much for visiting me at the weekend and these really kind words - I am thrilled that you enjoyed my horns. I am really pleased with your observations about the main attributes of the speakers as you pretty much nailed my design choices / ethos.

I have to say that I have (and continue to have) significant trepidation any time an audiophile comes to the system. I think we are all super passionate about this hobby with our gear choices etc so when you take that next step and stick your neck out and try to build something yourself, the intensity of this trepidation further rockets.

The project has taken over a year and a half in the making and continues to evolve. A lot of serious pain and failure on the way I might add. I must have spent at least 6 weeks trying to accomplish things with papier-mâché only to realise that the quality of what I was after would never have been viable for my taste. It was at that point that I spent just over 1 year learning wood turning every week (10 hours per week) under supervision of a master turner here in Hampshire, UK. This finally enabled me to be able to realise one of my primary aims - to be able to construct hardwood horns (Tractrix geometry for this speaker) using any timbers of my liking. To build a Tractrix horn in solid mahogany with an fc just below 200hz might seem somewhat extreme but I had always maintained that I wanted at all costs to avoid plastic based horns if possible. I recall the first day that I hooked the big mahogany horns up (they weigh just over a 110lbs each) and my delight to hear just delicious tone and no plastic colouration at all - it felt like the whole mission was worth it. Today I feel liberated as the potential to build my ultimate reference speaker is now viable with multi-way hardwood horns top to bottom.

The main chassis body is in fact Canadian maple of 40mm - same as used in the body (non sound board) of a grand piano for example - it gives great rigidity and strength but also tonally very nice. The jointing and internal bracing to enable this and to avoid movement posed small challenges but has been accomplished. My choice of 4 x 15” woofers per side might seem a bit extreme and likely to be overbearing (one might think that on paper) but it is surprising how super fast they sound with zero box colour and overhang. They don’t seem to cause any room boom. Anyway the key here was that they would have the speed and velocity to sound continuous with the horn and I am pleased that you picked up on this, Marc. It is one of the hardest things to make work - that is the continuity of the 2-way between the horn and the bass and one that a lot of hybrid horn speakers struggle with. The bass module is 104dB actively driven - a really easy 15ohms impedance. As Marc said, there is no crossover on the BD4 - the horn fc obviously yields a natural roll off as does the driver.

Anyway - the journey continues as I further refine the maple baffles. I am still making some minor tweaking here mainly for aesthetic purposes before I feel the design is finalised. Hopefully complete in the next month. I will certainly show some photos when I finish this final piece.

Marc - thanks again. So happy that you enjoyed yourself and it was nice to chat more generally.
 

Audiophile Bill

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Did Bill make you sign an ND ..? If not where are the pics ...!
:rolleyes:


Send in Ked .... :)

Hi Al,

Ked came to hear an earlier prototype with mahogany horn but plywood chassis (before the final maple chassis solution).

I certainly would like Ked to return to hear the latest version.

Best.
 
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Audiophile Bill

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A few photos to give basic idea.

2C8BC515-D810-4F91-99CB-08FBB4A7ADC0.jpeg
362BD4CC-5030-46A2-918E-FB2132FA0245.jpeg

Maple body during construction. Spinal column / wiring loom terminated with amphenol connectors.
8A4F2330-5D5D-493F-AA51-F94AD3CEEC91.jpeg
 

Audiophile Bill

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Woodworking geeks only - ebony splined compound mitre joints on the aperture opening held by inlaid strong neodymium magnets.

2666090D-2B32-438B-A907-09CA8AF492B1.jpeg
 

ddk

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Nice project Bill! I see a front end change in your signature, what happened to your Italian spinner?

david
 
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Alrainbow

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Wow Bill its beautiful , really , really great looking work ...
 

bonzo75

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Audiophile Bill

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Nice project Bill! I see a front end change in your signature, what happened to your Italian spinner?

david

Hi David,

Thank you very much. I traded the Vyger for some big Mayer monoblocks and some drivers.

I am using the Bergmann Sindre now and doing a renovation on a big Gates transcription idler - I think you would like the latter.
 

Audiophile Bill

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Wow Bill its beautiful , really , really great looking work ...

Al - thank you very much indeed. Very kind and most appreciated!
 

Tango

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Al - thank you very much indeed. Very kind and most appreciated!
Cant see the whole speaker appearance. But looks very professionally made with detail. I sense a bit Art Deco. Great job Bill.
 
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Lagonda

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Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Thank you, Mark, for this wonderful report!

Congratulations, Bill, on the realization of this horn loudspeaker dream!

I love the firepower of four 15 inch woofers per side!

The two pairs on each side fire towards each other? Can you please explain in more detail the woofer configuration design and the theory behind it?
 

Al M.

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Congratulations, Bill! Nice report, Marc!

Could we also please get pictures of the whole system?
 
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adyc

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Big congrats. A quick question, like all hardwoods, they will expand and contract with variations of temperature and humidity. How do you solve such problems?
 

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