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One flew over the cuckoo’s nest…

Years ago I wrote an essay titled, Why Horns, which you can find here on the OMA website in the About section. I wrote it to explain a bit why horns can be so valuable in audio, increasing efficiency, improving directivity and solving a host of other problems associated with conventional, low efficiency direct radiator speakers, which in audio today describes almost everything else.

So imagine my surprise when I find out (from an Audio Note dealer no less!) that my piece was hijacked by….. Audio Note.  My essay was literally stolen, word for word, with all the inconvenient stuff for Audio Note removed, and their own products and information inserted as if I had written it. Audio Note even used the typeface and graphics from the OMA website and original essay: judge for yourself. The real piece shows you what was removed, the fake, Audio Note piece what was added.

If you are familiar with the Cuckoo bird, it does a pretty nasty thing, attacking the nest of another bird, kicking out its eggs and inserting its own, hoping the mother bird won’t notice and will treat the Cuckoo birds eggs as its own. The Cuckoo, in other words, takes no responsibility for its own progeny. So goes Audio Note. While saying their piece is “based” upon an essay I wrote, suggesting they did more than copy and then manipulate my essay word for word, they also wrote that OMA and Audio Note:

“appear to share some common philosophies when it comes to crafting World’s Finest Audio.”

(we don’t)
“A key difference however is that OMA focusses on the craft of horn-loudspeakers, while Audio Note found a way to create high efficiency loudspeakers which do not exhibit the limitations of horn-loudspeakers (size and directionality among other things).”

Now, this is highly ironic, as I wrote Why Horns essentially as a critique of exactly the kind of loudspeakers Audio Note makes. Audio Note obviously want you to think they have something in common with OMA, but that’s wishful thinking, because the first problem is that they don’t even make “high efficiency” loudspeakers. All Audio Note speakers, no matter how much they cost, are based upon the same formula developed by Peter Snell decades ago, using a small, 8” woofer and a 1” dome tweeter in a very resonant, thin walled box. The original Snell was rated at 90db/1w/1m I believe. AN has a dishonesty problem beyond their fake OMA piece, because for many years they’ve been making truly ridiculous claims about how efficient their speakers are, such as the Lexus AN-E reviewed in Stereophile in claiming 98db efficiency with a frequency range of 17hz-22khz. Unfortunately for AN, the editor in chief of Stereophile, John Atkinson, measured this speaker at only 92db, which is a huge 6db less than claimed. The frequency extension is also impossible, btw. But imagine that a car company said their car reached a speed of 200mph. What if it only really went 50 mph? That’s exactly AN’s problem with their “efficiency” ratings- 92db vs 98db is 400% less efficiency, or 4 times slower if it were a car.  Even worse, the impedance curves published by Stereophile indicate a 4ohm (not 8ohm) impedance which makes it more like an 89-90db speaker (like the original Snell) which is not only NOT high efficiency, its not even close. Most people who know would not call anything under around 95db a high efficiency design, and even 92db is half that at best. Basically, if cars were speakers, AN makes a less slow car, not a fast one. And especially not a really fast one.

A lot of my original piece focused on the importance of directivity that you get with horn speakers. That means the sound goes where you want it to go, not bouncing all around the room creating problems acoustically. But the AN people want you to believe that’s a “limitation” of horns, while not being able to explain why.  You might also notice in the original essay that  “Low efficiency speakers get a lot of bass from little woofers by making them move a great distance, which means they need a very loose “suspension”- the surround of the cone that allows it to move and keeps it in place. Such woofers need a high damping factor to make them behave. High efficiency woofers are larger, have stiff, light paper cones with big magnets and move very little.

Again, AN tried to insert their own speakers into the above:

“The Audio Note high efficiency woofers are larger, have stiff, light paper cones with big magnets and move very little. They need very low damping factor, which is typically what SET and other low power tube amplifiers offer.”

Well, this is just nonsense, because AN uses exactly the kind of woofer I was criticizing- small (8”) heavy cone with a RUBBER surround, which is needed for long excursion to go way too low for its own good (how else can it “reproduce” 17hz?)

If imitation were indeed “the sincerest form of flattery” I might find what Audio Note did ok, but it was actually extremely insincere and misguided. My suggestion for AN:

Design speakers that work the way you claim, and don’t steal other people’s intellectual work to try and defend your own.