Speaker manufacturers- House Sounds - Fact or Fiction?

I am looking to replace my Dynaudio Focus 160s. I am looking at more Dynaudio speakers, because I like the 160s and hope to get more of the same plus a bit extra. Do people believe that manufacturers have a house sound that is present across the range, or is that a myth? For me, part of it is the bewildering array of speakers that make it impossible to test them all, and concentrating on one manufacturer gives me an easier puzzle to solve. However, I am confident with Dynaudio and this is also important to me, and they have a certain WAF.

Manufacturers making their own drivers will tend to have a house sound because they use the same type of membrane and surround material. This is largely what gives the ‘‘color’’ of the sound.

I think it also depends on who voices the speakers. Small changes in the tuning of the crossovers for passives and the same for the tuning of the active amp adjustments can make a difference. If the same person/persons are doing this, the sound will have characteristic to it, just like each of our listening rooms and associated equipment.

Even when not, often the same drivers, or some of the same drivers, will be used in multiple models in a range, because they have characteristics that fit what the manufacturer is trying to do. And the approach to particular aspects will be common, such as the crossover, and approach to damping, etc etc.

That is likely to be particularly true in any one range or family of speakers. Less so between ranges by the same manufacturer, especially designed some time apart, when the only common ground might be the manufacturer’s philosophy (unless they are simply an evolution).

There is no definite answer, some manufacturers do keep a house sound throughout their range, as you say just getting “more” as you move up the line. Others make a range of speakers that could be all different sorts of “flavors”. So it really depends on the manufacturer, Dynaudio seems to be fairly consistent/has a house sound but even they have made models from time to time that vary from their typical “house sound”

I think that manufacturers want basically to sell. Those who still rely on a design, a voice, a given tradition are a fistful or have contaminated themselves, like Klipsch. Even Naim, who has been one of the most interesting speaker systems designer around, has made the IBL and the Ariva, the Sat and the S-800. A few days ago I’ve heard a pair of Dynaudio Special Forty with a Naim Nova and was surprised at how different it all sounded from what I expected. The Dynaudio was smooth, with slightly recessed and ‘flou’ upper midrange, an exceptionally deep bass, airy and seducingly anonymous.

Harbeth is releasing anniversary versions of everything, when Alan Shaw once admitted on his forum that the so-called special versions of his designs were usually requested by importers and basically featured some fancy inner cabling and binding posts.

Does a house sound exist? Probably yes, and it very likely is the sound of your house. Personally, I wouldn’t stick with one brand (said the guy who had had 5 pairs of N-Sats, 2 of S-400s, Arivas, 2 pairs of SBLs and tried with Allaes and Credos without buying them); that said, what was your question? To me, you simply stated that you like Dynaudio and since it is frustrating and time-consuming looking for alternatives, are staying with it. The reason why I am still owning Naim speakers is the same, plus the fact that, so far, I have found almost any other brand unmusical and boring. Now you just need some other member to confirm your opinion and you’ll regain peace of mind. No irony.

Best with your choice,

Usually there is a house sound… at least a house sound for a product family. Listen to the PMC twenty5 range, Russell K range, ATC SCM range, Focal Sopra range, Harbeth speakers etc and you will hear a common characteristic within the range … some times this will be down to design characteristics and approach as well as materials used. For example Russell K speaker damping approach is very different to PMC,

Ultimately a loudspeaker is a compromised device, and it’s a case of its designer choosing the balance of compromise and choosing to focus on some attributes at the expense of others. This is of course the same for other audio replay components such as amplifiers, DACs, cartridges etc.

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I think most manufacturers of hi fi have a house sound. Whether this is an explicit policy or just that the design team like a particular sound balance is a bit of a moot point.

I have been using naim amps with Rega speakers for some years now because I like the sound of them together and have this combination on both of my home systems, so I definitely have a a house sound.

I quite like Neat’s approach in where as they tune their speakers by ear rather than relying on what the figures say. Obviously, certain speaker brands will have a certain house sound of their own if they stick with using the same drive units/tweeters and a similar approach to their cabinet designs. Personally i find most things these days are very samey and it’s becoming harder and harder to find a distinctive and better product. Naim and a handful of other brands are still standing out from the crowd however!


Which makes it a challenge if you want distinction (which can be in styling, or function). However with hifi the general aim in terms of function is to minimise the effect of the equipment - which by definition means to minimise any house sound (unless that sound is complete neutrality and absence of any imposed sound). On that basis it is perhaps not unexpected for a tendency for at least the better equipment to have less and less distinctive character compared to one another. (Though that doesn’t mean some won’t stand out due to some unique focus.)

However, and pertinent to the subject of this thread, speakers are so much further from perfection than any other components, as evidenced by the fact that even at quite a high price point a group of speakers will all sound different, in a way far more readily heard than the differences between, say, amps.

IMO, Ejvind Skaaning who is the founder of Dynaudio and ScanSpeak had the best approach right from the start. He developed very high quality drivers that could be used with minimum-phase first-order networks. This also contribute to a house sound.

Other people like Stewart Tyler of ProAc can be considered as a real artist when designing and tweaking a crossover. He always come up with beautiful sounding loudspeakers no matter the type of drivers he use or the size and shape of the boxes.

Pure neutrality should be boring and I consider a house sound more like the soul of a loudspeaker. You choose the one you prefer.

Would you rely on a computer to design a violin?

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many speakers do indeed sound the same. More so those that bring in expensive drivers with expensive wire and crossover components put in a fancy box. With a price to fool those thinking it should be the best.
When I bought my first serious speaker - the humble KEF coda - when shop demonstrated with a huge Wadia cdp and Krell amps I was most impressed, although most disappointed when I got it home. :laughing: So I will echo Max with regard to house sound coming from your own house and add the home system behind them.
Certainly those that go the extra with their own drivers and/or unique design principles will sound different.

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I fundamentally disagree that neutrality of a music reproduction system SHOULD be boring. It could be, though that depends on whether you want to listen to the system, or hear the music through it unmodified… (or the relative degree of each). A music reproduction system is quite different from a musical instrument, where the sound colouration is part of the desired character of the music creating instrument.

But maybe that depends on whether you like the sound of the music as recorded!

And that of course can vary from recording to recording, so maybe ideal would be a tweaking box, effectively like far more sophisticated tone control in DSP, whereby the listener can fix whatever doesn’t sound right in the recording, whether that is boosting or cutting some part of the spectrum, compressing or expanding dynamic range, etc - though inevitably within the limitations of the completeness and precision of what is in the recording.

As for speakers, given that they are all coloured, of course choose the one that sounds best …to you, in your room, with the range of music you play. And for some people that might be the most neutral one, for others the most coloured one.

You are right IB, ‘could be’ is the right word in this case.

I think most quality speaker manufacturers tune by ear.

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I used to be very fond of my 23s - that was before I got sophisticated hearing aids. I now find the 23s almost screechy - is that why you don’t like them?

I have heard speakers in different rooms sound completely different. It’s more how the room plays the speaker than how the speaker plays in the room. Which, I suppose, could be coined a “house sound”. Or a room sound.

Rightly or wrongly, the term “house sound” conjures up the thought of distortion or colouration which is brand specific. I think we’re mostly past that kind of engineering nowadays.

Remember that the danger in recognising a house sound is then blindly following that conclusion over years.

For example, in the mid 90s, I loved Linn speakers. The Tukans, Keilidhs, and Kabers had this wonderful fluid, almost waterlike smooth flow. Everything well integrated. I found all Naim speakers dry and papery sounding.There was a definite house sound there with both.

Then Linn lost their marbles and radically changed their design aporoach switching from sealed elegant boxes to these front ported designs that continue today. The first few generations of the new were awful. The current generation might be improved vastly but it is not the Linn house sound of yesteryear. Of that you can be sure.

As a cautionary tale, I’d never write off a brand from a bad listening experience; just the range perhaps. Things do change.

For what it’s worth, the above tale could be repeated for every Naim speaker fan who though they’d lost the plot with Ovaters. It always pays to be open minded and listen beyond your brand comfort zone when ranges have changed.

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Just like each and every player in a symphony orchestra does before the music begins. It takes a little more time than having an electronic tuner stuck on the palette of your guitar, but it helps 100 people become One.
Acoustic Research’s first batch of models were aimed at being perfectly linear in an anechoic chamber, then you put them in your living room and they were boomy and chesty. The myth of audio gear as a scientific, precision tool was dead before being born. An audio system a musical toy, and like every toy it must chiefly give joy and some fun. Perfect measurements are more useful when you want to send a guy to stick a flag on the Moon’s surface.


Yeah I am not sure many thought audio replay was a scientific precision tool… however being a currently lapsed member of the AES, I can see a lot of the science and engineering is all about how us humans perceive audio and the better understanding of that … and inventing and discovering methods that help get that perception closer to reality in terms of what is important and prefereable for our brains and our minds.