in defense of horn loaded bass cabs ?

Discussion in 'Amps [BG]' started by lexington125, Feb 2, 2014.


  1. lexington125

    lexington125

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    I'm still trying to select the right cabinet for my needs. the modern designs from Greenboy and Barefaced are top contenders, but I have also been looking at some alternates, like the BFM 'Jack' model. This horn loaded design was especially appealing as I will be matching the cab with a mid powered tube amp (+/- 150 watts) and I frequently play bar/club gigs where only the vocals have PA support. If high output (Barefaced, Greenboy) is good, then crazy high output (Jack) is even better for my situation.

    Then I read the following article that discusses the suitability of horn loaded designs for bass cabinet use:
    http://acmebass.com/andysworld/horns.html

    The short answer is that the author does not believe that horn loaded designs have any practical use as bass cabinets. Can anyone provide any response to this article? As I haven't made any purchase yet, I'm trying to be open minded and bass my decisions on facts, not trends or nostalgia. If the main points of this article are beyond refute, it would be hard to justify a horn loaded design for bass guitar use.
  2. Joe Louvar

    Joe Louvar

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    FWIW: Personally I don't like tweeters/horns in my bass cabinets - I don't like their sound and its just more crossover $#!^ to worry about burning/wearing out, so I don't like them - I never have, and I still don't - period.
  3. Cirk

    Cirk

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    I'm sure Andy would be glad to discuss this with you. As he's an active member here, he'll probably reply to this thread soon.
  4. BFunk

    BFunk Gold Supporting Member

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    I like the horn in my Fearless cabs, even with distortion. They have a much higher crossover point then many other designs. I think it is around 5k IIRC. I do add about a 4db/octave shelving cut at around 8k with the horn on full.
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  6. lexington125

    lexington125

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    OK, a little clarification is in order. the article has nothing to do with midrrange or high end horns; it is about bass horn cabinet designs. (like the old Acoustic 360/370 amps)
  7. BFunk

    BFunk Gold Supporting Member

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    My bad. :)
  8. headband

    headband Supporting Member

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    I built a few horn loaded loudspeakers for my low watt stereo several years ago, and it was an eye opening experience. Some things I learned:
    1 - you are trying to replicate the "bell of a trumpet" as you fold this horn up and stuff it in a box. All of the angles and corners tend to accentuate or dampen frequencies, so these folded horns in general greatly color the frequency response. Some designs are better than others.
    2. As I recall to accurately capture the low notes of a bass guitar, the horn opening has to be something like 20 feet in diameter (don't remember the exact number, but I know it was really big). This is why the original Klipschorn was designed to be placed in a corner - is used the room corner as part of the horn design to "increase" the horn opening size and achieve low bass response. As no horns (expect some old movie theater horns) were/are built this large, low frequency bass will suffer. Most usually roll off pretty severely between 60 and 80 Hz.
    Now, you may like the sound of this - I have an Acoustic 301 cab, and I do like the way it sound - but I believe there are much better sounding efficient choices today.
  9. lexington125

    lexington125

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    this is basically the conclusion reached in the article referenced above.
  10. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight Supporting Member

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    I don't really know enough about the science or engineering in the article, so I can't really comment on it. However, I've always wondered why you don't see folded horns in use as bass cabs anymore. I have played through a fair amount of old folded designs when it comes to PA scoops though.
  11. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen

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    Power is cheap now, so don't need horn efficiency for bass guitar range. When you go subs low, they become bit more relevant.
  12. Makatak

    Makatak

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    Wow !
  13. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member

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    The biggest issue is that horns that are a practical size (like the Jack) don't get reinforcement below (I'm just guessing here) about 150 hz. So that means that that wonderful efficiency that you're getting above 200 hz doesn't translate to the low end. With bass our efficiency concerns are about the area in the frequency spectrum that causes us to use all of our wattage and excursion capabilities---namely below 150hz. Where the horn is ineffective.

    When I look at claims of efficiency I look at the efficiency in that area. Because that's where most of our resources are needed.

    As someone had stated--watts are cheap these days. (and light) And we now have low frequency drivers with twice the excursion capabilities of speakers of old.

    A 12" speaker in a shorter horn will have no better efficiency in the meat and potatoes region that a typical reflex cab.

    The Acoustic 360 was a beast but it really didn't go that low.
  14. Philonius

    Philonius Supporting Member

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    It's a bit above my expertise level to refute the article on a point by point basis, but I think there are some "straw men" being discussed. The author's argument against horns includes problems with too tight pattern control, phase induced distortions and colorations that sound wrong, and the fact that they're too herkin' big.

    No doubt there are real world examples exhibiting all of these problems. And it is true that any cabinet that isn't Really Big doesn't function as a horn down to the low fundamental frequencies of a BG. Turns out you may not need, or particularly want a particularly strong output a 30 Hz for your low B anyway.

    Cabinet design always involves trade offs, and (at the risk of showing myself to be a BFM fanboy) Bill does a good job of coming up with various designs that work well in the real world and meet a number of functional niches. If you DO want huge and need to get the walls resonating at 30Hz, then yes get a Titan. If you want something more reasonable with high sensitivity, good dispersion, even output above 50 Hz, and have a high dB/weight ratio, the Jack is a pretty good choice. Yes, they only function as horns when you get into more midrange-y frequencies, but they are designed as a small, fairly simple cab that takes advantage of horn loading in a rational manner.

    There are lots of other great cabs out there including the Acmes, (and greenboy, and Duke, and some very clever TB DIY'ers) but don't dismiss a whole category of cabinets because the old Acoustic 360 was a bear to haul around.
  15. headband

    headband Supporting Member

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    Interesting - didn't read the article before writing, but the results are the same. Even with the hifi system I needed a subwoofer to reach any real lows with horns.
    Horns are wildly popular in Japan for stereo systems. A lot of the old theater gear has ended up over there.
  16. lexington125

    lexington125

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    One comment of mine that should be re-stated:
    although 'watts are cheap" these days, many of us still prefer to use mid-power tube heads (vintage or new designs). The remarkable success of the new V4b reissue is quick proof of this. For those of us who will never have access to more than 100 to 150 watts, does the horn design still have some practical use?
  17. tdogg

    tdogg Supporting Member

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    The person who wrote that article seems to have a chip on their shoulder regarding horn cabs. I say try one for yourself.

    FYI I have two BFM Jack112's and love them. Paired with a Demeter pre and a Mackie 1400i power amp I keep up with a brutally loud drummer and a guitarist with a 150w head. YMMV.
  18. Philonius

    Philonius Supporting Member

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    "One comment of mine that should be re-stated:
    although 'watts are cheap" these days, many of us still prefer to use mid-power tube heads (vintage or new designs). The remarkable success of the new V4b reissue is quick proof of this. For those of us who will never have access to more than 100 to 150 watts, does the horn design still have some practical use?"

    Short answer: probably.
  19. tdogg

    tdogg Supporting Member

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    "watts are cheap" was mentioned once or twice. It also goes to mention that labor to mass produce horn cabs isn't as cheap.
  20. headband

    headband Supporting Member

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    Good horns are usually pretty heavy too. I own both an Acoustic 301 horn, and a Greenboy 1212/6 and the Greeboy gets the nod for me - reasonably lightweight, full range and efficient. The Greenboy gets gigged, the Acoustic does not.
  21. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

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    Seemed to me the article covered all the bases. He talked about the old style, huge, heavy cabs that featured drivers that faced back into cabs with complicated internal geometry, and cabs that feature horns for high end content.

    A few years back I picked up a 2-15 Sunn scooped cab. It was pretty much pristine, other than smoke odor, and cheap. Sounded great. It also was huge, and weighed in at about 135 lb. After a couple gigs, the love was gone. Nobody wanted any part of moving that beast. I sold it, unloaded, to a collector of vintage Sunn gear. So, been there done that, moved on, like the rest of the modern world. Size and weight do matter.

    I've had some nice cabs that featured some sort of horn or tweeter, usually coupled with a control. The control lets you shut the thing off, which saves time over physically removing the offensive little POS that comes in most major brand offerings. The problem here is that most of the horns and tweeters are really cheap and have crappy crossovers. They can add some sparkle in the showroom, but don't add much to your sound in the average band context. Worse, they just add noise to an already overloaded part of the live sound spectrum.

    Since I've built a few fEarfuls both with and without horns, I'll give you my take on it.
    First, the fEarful specs a pretty nice horn driver and horn lens. The two parts will cost you about $40. The fEarful design also specs a robust crossover so your horn will receive content that is appropriate for the range. And, of course, a control so you can dial in the level.

    IMHO, YMMV, ect: The horns are pretty cool. They look bitchin. They let me use my 15/6/1's for full range content like drum machines, but for straight bass playing, I don't bother with them. I much prefer my fEarful 12/6 with the less expensive mid driver and no horn.

    Or you can take a cab like the audio kenisis Thunderchild, with makes excellent use of a horn for both mids and high end. Difference here, is Duke actually thought all the particulars out and built a superb cab.

    I'm not saying that horns can't be used, just that for the most part, your average cab throws in a POS and calls it "astounding high end and clarity, coupled with crushing lows and punishing midrange punch!" or some such marketing nonsense. For the print add, throw in a well known bassist or scantily clad, buxom babe, standing next to the cab. Either will work to sell gear to bassists.

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