A microphone in reverse could best describe the role of a loudspeaker.
The Translator, a speaker to enhance the emotions of the most critical music listener.
Having worked in the hi fi industry for 37 years, regularly auditioning and demonstrating well known and respected speaker brands, it was surprising that only a handful of them performed well enough to present music as naturally and realistically as one would wish.
Having such a long period of years listening to countless speaker design variants (electrostatic, full range single driver, open baffle, Omni-directional, horn) you become experienced in hearing the strengths and weaknesses inherent in each approach and gradually you start to form a definite view of the areas in sound reproduction that seem to provide the most believable and engaging performance.
This i feel was a very strong point for us. It was never going to be a question of producing a speaker and just seeing how good we could get it to perform.
We already knew the areas of importance to us and how we expected The Translator to present the music.
When we listen to music it needs to be effortless, natural and easy, allowing the listener to relax into great detail presented in a well focussed and solid soundstage where vocals and instruments are free of colouration and maintain their natural timbre. The smallest transients must be retrieved to help maintain the freshness and speed of response while never sounding harsh or aggressive.
The bass should have sufficient extension to work well in various room configurations with tight control, even output and low colouration.
Our experience also included many years of listening to a design of speaker that used a 1st order crossover filter instead of the usual 2nd, 3rd and especially 4th order circuits found in many high-end designs. This speaker with 1st order crossovers had really become a reference point for us because it would continually out-perform all others by sounding more natural and realistic. We came to appreciate over the years that the crossover was responsible for its advantage over the others, even those speakers with considerably better drive units and enclosures.
It was a very exciting prospect to think that we could develop a design of speaker using a 1st order crossover and upgraded drive units mounted in a heavy, rigid enclosure and then paying close attention to the components in the crossover, implementing higher quality inductors and capacitors of much closer tolerances.
The field of speaker design is a fascinating arena of so many differing opinions and strategies. You may be the humble hobbyist or the maths and physics academic. It doesn't matter. It really is open to all abilities.
The internet provides a wealth of information regarding crossover circuits and the pros and cons of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th order. Reviews, forums and interviews with manufacturers proved very informative for our understanding the advantages of 1st order and why it is rarely implemented.
Here are the unique properties of 1st order crossovers
Passes through all signals with the same time delay.
Produces a phase difference that is constant at all frequencies.
Maintains amplitude and phase unchanged, thus being transient perfect.
Has the slowest electrical roll-off, -6dB per octave.
Has the fewest reactive components, 1 inductor and 1 capacitor.
Time after time the same mantra is aimed at 1st order filters, that the drive units will work beyond their expected frequency limits, due to the gentle -6dB filtering.
So how do we keep the drive units happy and working within their normal range of frequencies and expected power handling ?
Very simple. You filter them at frequency points that will reduce the range of operation.
But doesn"t that result in a non-flat frequency response ?
If your speaker design priority is amplitude, a measured flat frequency response,1st order is going to struggle to give you that without compromising sound quality.
Your hearing characteristics are, however, naturally amplifying the midrange frequencies already and this is where you can now implement a 1st order crossover optimised to the amplitude characteristics of the ear. The resulting crossover design basically reduces the demands on each driver to reproduce frequencies around the crossover region. As well as creating a very natural timbre it also minimises driver overlap and increases power handling.
Alternatively if you have access to speaker design software and input the relevant data of the drive units, enclosure and crossover circuit you plan to use the software will produce graphs and plots that show your 'theoretical' speakers frequency response, power response, transfer function, phase and impedance, etc. This pictorial information is fascinating and beguiling but moves your focus into trying to achieve the best 'measured' loudspeaker and not necessarily the best 'acoustic' loudspeaker. The whole design process simply becomes dominated in satisfying the goal of 'amplitude', the flat frequency response, and that's when your design software will lead you away from 1st order, and your music is about to have time coherence and phase coherence removed, and no electronic wizardry can compensate for it.
36 years of extensive listening to a very wide variety of audio systems and rooms has given us the confidence to design and voice speakers, by ear, to satisfy the most relevant test, the listeners pleasure.
The 3 Square Audio levelling system
As Hi-Fi users it has been a long standing complaint of ours that most equipment comes with an inadequate spike adjustment system. It is either poorly designed or badly executed or in many cases both. We were determined to get this right. Before we had designed the Translator speaker we had designed the spike system it incorporates.
This consists of a large M10 threaded stainless steel bolt fixed to a 10mm steel plate with an aluminium coned foot of our own design mounted to it. The coned foot has a small hole through it, which with the use of the supplied allen key, makes micro adjustment easy. Due to the mass of the plate, the quality and size of the threaded parts, there is no need for a locking nut thus removing the wobble and difficulty of adjustment associated with M6 and M8 spikes.
We have also taken the opportunity to install a fifth stud on the speakers to allow the purist to stand them on only 3 spikes. We have found, however, that with our system on 4 spikes micro rocking, so common in lesser spike systems, is all but eliminated.
Baltic Birch plywood
We have a passion for Baltic birch plywood.
For the uninitiated this is not the sort of plywood you buy from your local DIY store or builders merchants. This is a very high quality material supplied only by specialist suppliers. Baltic birch plywood is made from veneers of very slow grown birch, no other species unlike ordinary plywood, grown in the cold Baltic regions of Finland and the once Baltic states of Russia. As it is slow grown it is a very dense timber which when veneered together, grain at right angles in alternate layers approximately 1mm thick, forms an incredibly rigid and consistent material from which we can build our products. Baltic birch is an attractive light coloured wood which has varying grain patterns on it. We use the plywood in sheet form but also by laminating it together to form the striped pattern you see on top of our speakers. We have perfected this technique over some time to form an attractive but very strong timber. Finally we use oil and wax based finish which we have developed over a few years to provide a smooth gloss finish which is hardwearing and will not chip like a lacquer or paint.