Audiophiles (like me) typically stay away from Pro Sound drivers because they can produce raucous sounds. We’ve all been to weddings where the DJ equipment totally disappointed our audiophile cravings. Over time, Pro Sound components intrigued me due to their high efficiency and ability to produce lifelike dynamics. Can they be tamed, I wondered?
After years of enjoying relatively tame full range drivers that are easy on the ears I decided to purchase a few Pro Sound woofers and tweeters for the sake of experimentation. Searching the web helped me make a few smart decisions. While not all Pro Sound drivers sound good, there are many that do. The bad ones are simply designed to play loudly without regard to frequency response. The good ones will surprise you with their ability to tickle your audiophile fancy.
Eminence is one of the most well regarded Pro Sound speaker companies. They make anything and everything for any budget. My first foray into Pro Sound woofers was the venerable Alpha 15A – which is commonly used on excellent sounding Open Baffle projects all over the world. Interestingly, using the Alpha 15A on anything but an open baffle speaker just doesnt’ sound good at all – unless you like bloated one note bass. I think the Alpha 15A is used a lot in terrible sounding DJ rigs, typically in sealed or ported boxes that are simply too small. How can a driver sound bad when used one way and good another?
I found that crossing a 15” Alpha 15A to a tweeter in a typical Pro Sound speaker is not the best way to get good sound – but it is a good way to get loud sound without worrying about blowing your drivers. Bass will be deep enough to get everyone up and dancing but critical listening reveals a very rocky frequency response in the driver’s mid and upper range. Placing this driver on an open baffle and limiting its frequency response from only (approximately) 35 – 200Hz allows this driver to show off what it does best. But then you need to add a midrange.
It’s also been common practice to match an Alpha 15A with more refined midrange drivers. Search for “H-frame” and you will find many wonderful Alpha 15A projects accompanying even the most expensive Lowther, Jordan and Fostex drivers, to name a few. But I was curious to find a Pro Sound midrange that matched the best I had heard. My search lead to an interesting find – a driver I consider to be among the best midrange transducers I’ve ever heard – the Eminence Lil’ Buddy.
The Lil’ Buddy has a flat measured frequency response and an efficiency of approximately 98db per watt! This driver can be powered by inexpensive digital amps (link to amp article) and produce very loud output in your home.
I also purchased and listened to the Eminence Beta 10A and Legend CA10 in an effort to find a 10” driver that would go deep enough in the bass and sound smooth enough to satisfy me in a home sized box speaker (between 1.5 and 2.5 cubic feet, for example). I’d say these drivers are less successful than more typical ‘home’ drivers. They don’t go as low and they don’t sound as smooth. They do play loudly and make music but it’s not the most refined sound, in my humble audiophile opinion. But they do play music with dynamics and I would imagine many might enjoy their lifelike and dynamic presentation despite their sonic flaws. If you are curious, don’t knock em till you try em.
But the Lil’ Buddy doesn’t go into a box, it goes on an open baffle and this is where this driver shines and outperforms my collection of full range drivers (Tangband W8-1808, Fostex 168Z and Betsy WOW – I’m looking at you!).
The Lill’ Buddy sounds more neutral, more dynamic and more realistic than the above drivers (and I really like them!) on open baffle when mated with a good tweeter.
Which brings me to Pro Sound tweeters or Compression Drivers. I’ve purchased cheap and expensive ones and find they can both be good and bad. Why, because of the same reasons all Pro Sound drivers could sound good or bad – they are designed to play loudly but not all of them are designed for flat frequency response.
I have another page for compression drivers but will sum up that the B&C DE250 is an audiophile product in my opinion and other, less expensive tweeters like the Pyle 442PDS and Dayton 250D can also sound excellent when partnered with the right waveguide. I’ve had the pleasure of experimenting with several and understand why so many audiophiles all over the world enjoy horn loaded compression tweeters. It’s because they sound awesome! If you are a fan of dome tweeters but love a dynamic, realistic sound, give these a listen.
So while some of the Pro Sound drivers I’ve purchased didn’t always satisfy sonically, there are some that do. And when they do, they do in spades!
I look forward to hearing many other Pro Sound brands that have a reputation for sonic excellence like FaitalPRO, Selenium, JBL, Peerless and others including old school designs from Altec and Klipsch.