Nike - The Ultimate Transmission Line Loudspeaker

Design Goal

Oh that is easy I hear you think. One should aim to design a loudspeaker that sounds good. What the hell is a good speaker though? Everything on earth is relative and what John thinks sound good is not necessarily what Peter thinks sounds good or me for that matter.

My ultimate loudspeakers should satisfy my own criteria of “good”, after all I am designing it for my own listening pleasure. I have spent some part of my life as an engineer in the high technology military industry and this is where I encountered simulators for the first time. Simulators are mainly used for training operators where giving them the real thing to play with might be too expensive or downright dangerous. The main purpose of the simulator is thus to mimic the real thing accurately enough to fool the operator’s senses into believing that he or she is experiencing the real thing under similar conditions.

Loudspeakers are nothing more than simulators. If you want to experience the real thing, buy the tickets and go see the show. But not all of us can afford to fly all over the world to see our favourite artists performing live. So we buy the CDs and listen to it in the comfort of our homes. The loudspeaker’s sole purpose is to try and emulate the sounds as it was recorded. The more accurate they simulate the original recording, the better I consider them to be. I want to turn the lights down low and float away with the music to places that I have never seen.

I can not claim to have golden ears, but I have spent sufficient time in concert halls to know what a symphony orchestra sound like at full flight with every sound detailed and clear, from the bass drums to the delicate tinkling of a single bell. I have also tried my hand at being a drummer in a band at some stage and know that a kick drum makes a thwack rather a boom when kicked. And then I have spent some time in clubs when shooting the erstwhile Goth band Silex. I know what shear power feels like with the bass doing stuff to your innards and screaming guitars soar into the air like avenging angels.

Most commercial designs that I can afford simply does not make me drool. I have also listened to some esoteric and expensive high end designs to know that it can be done. So if you can not afford what you like, you roll your own. Enter the Nikes.

I decided to call them Nikes, not after the shoes, but the fleet footed Greek goddess who sped through the air at speed and was not afraid to rumble with the warriors in the midst of battle. She embodies some of the characteristics that I want from this design, fast, clean, holistic and able to go low and high with speed and accuracy.

In my opinion, these goals are the typical characteristics of transmission line enclosure designs if properly designed and fitted with the right drivers. Over the years I have designed a number transmission line speakers and feel comfortable that I have some grasp on how to make them sing and avoid some of pitfalls associated with this type of design. Most box type enclosure sound boxy, boomy and at worst woolly especially when driven by plastic cones. If you think I am bad by using all these airy fairy terms, you should join a whine tasting club!

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