Loudspeaker building has been my hobby since the 1980s. Perhaps the main reason I decided to build my own speakers was to reduce the amount of sibilance I heard in many commercially available designs. Sibilance spoiled the listening experience for me. So I tried building speakers with extended and satisfying treble without this subtle but harsh artifact. After many years of spending a lot of money on woofers, tweeters and crossover components, I came across http://www.fullrangedriver.com (unfortunately, now defunct) and discovered fullrange drivers. Fullrange drivers were distinctive because they eliminated the crossover. Those capacitors, resistors and coils I used to swap in and out of crossovers in order to improve the sound were unnecessary.
The first fullrange driver I purchased was the Pioneer B20. At first I was disappointed with its sound. There was very little treble. I had to supplement this wide range driver with a tweeter. But I found that adding a ‘helper’ tweeter with a very high (and simple) crossover was easy to build and sounded great. At the time, I credited the high crossover point (approximately 10kHz) with reducing sibilance.
The first expensive fullrange driver I purchased was the Fostex 168 (older style with whizzer). It sounded wonderful! I loved the extended treble and full rich midrange. Sibilance was minimal. I was hooked! I found that fullrange drivers, while not needing a crossover, needed a proper cabinet in order to maximize bass performance. While I wasn’t a carpenter, Home Depot cut wood and a jig saw allowed me to cut holes.
Since then, I began purchasing fullrange drivers that were being discussed online. People loved the very inexpensive Radio Shack drivers. I bought several but primarily recall the 40-1197 and 40-1354 as my favorites. Fostex seemed to be an upgrade and I purchased the 127e, 168z (mentioned above) and 165k. I built several different cabinets for these and enjoyed them all. Of course, different cabinets made the speakers sound different – balancing out the bass or not. Larger cabinets generally provided deeper bass (but not necessarily better bass). I’m still working thru all the possible variations on my speaker building journey.
I bought other Pioneer full range drivers (no longer being made), as well as Aura, NSB, 69-Cent Wonders, Dayton, Radio Shack, Onkyo, Wild Burro, Tangband, Vifa and whatever I found interesting on sale at Madisound and Parts Express. One of my favorite fullrange drivers is a ceiling speaker from Midland Audio I purchased on closeout from Parts Express. Unfortunately, they are no longer being made (to my knowledge – if anyone knows they are please let me know). I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Lowther drivers at New York Stereo Shows.
I no longer waste time with complicated crossovers. I usually purchase fullrange drivers and use them ‘as is’ then determine if they are worth experimenting with for my very own greedy listening pleasure. I’ve built many different cabinet designs and believe they all have their pros and cons. I couldn’t say back horns are better than sealed boxes or ported is better than open baffle but I could say that each type of cabinet works differently depending on the room they are in. Since moving into a small apartment I have ported speakers in the bedroom and open baffle in the den. When I lived in a house I had sealed cabinets in the den and back horns (BIBs) in my dedicated listening room. All can provide exceptional musical experiences.
My definition of a fullrange driver is one that produces a relatively flat frequency response with bass reaching approximately 100Hz and extending past 15kHz without the use of a tweeter. It’s my opinion – as a music lover – that fullrange drivers stay out of the way of the music better than speakers using crossovers (I feel crossovers potentially – and usually – damage the sound). If you are interested in fullrange drivers but don’t know where to start I suggest reading about them online to get an idea of how people characterize them (bright, warm, extended, forward, etc.) and purchasing a few from well established manufacturers. I’d start with the less expensive models and when you find a brand you enjoy purchase something more expensive. If you have friends that already own them, make a point to listen to them. You might find them to your liking. You also might find them lacking in some way, depending on your taste in music reproduction.
As for me, I’m hooked and haven’t purchased anything but fullrange or wide range drivers – along with helper woofers and tweeters. They satisfy my musical cravings most.