Is modern design plus vintage esthetic equal high fidelity?


Mis à jour le 29 March 2021.

Vintage look, unusual design, does the appearance of electronics and loudspeakers serve musicality? Does the shape have any impact in high fidelity or can it detract from audio performance?

The Eltax Monitor PWR 1959 speakers combine vintage design with a 15″ woofer for a beautiful esthetic result and grat musical prowess.

Spherical speakers

It’s impossible to talk about design and form in hi-fi without mentioning the pioneering brand in this area, Elipson . After the war, the French manufacturer equipped the Maison de la radio with loudspeakers boasting highly unusual shapes, completely befitting for 1960s fashion. Spherical design, conchs with deflectors, the Elipson speakers boasted a unique design. Beautiful …and musical. Joseph Léon, the founder of Elipson had indeed discovered – in particular – that a spherical enclosure had acoustic benefits.


The rear soundwave was no longer reflected brutally by the panel opposite the speaker, but guided along its curved cabinet, then captured either by a damping material housed at the bottom of the enclosure, or absorbed using an internal resonator. Only the soundwave emitted by the visible part of the speaker membrane was thus diffused towards the listener.

The Elipson Planet L speakers feature a spherical shape to suppress rear soundwaves and provide a more natural and faithful sound.

Cabinets with deflector / diffuser

Speakers equipped with a diffuser use at least one speaker driver facing upwards and a diffuser which distributes the sound at 360 °. Let’s be clear: these speakers have no audiophile pretension and bouncing sound off a medium gives very random results, very difficult to predict. However, the principle was developed by Elipson with excellent results. The technique implemented was however close to using an acoustic horn and only a very precise frequency range was mechanically amplified. We find this system on the speaker Elipson BS50 Tribute , which is a reissue of the model that made the brand famous in the 1950s.

Elipson BS50 Tribute
With its large diffuser, the Elipson B50 Tribute speaker optimizes sound distribution so that everyone in the room can enjoy music with the same sound quality. More than a speaker offering superb musicality, afficionados of the brand appreciate the extraordinary design of this iconic object.

The curved speakers

Some manufacturers design their speakers with curved lines. This is particularly the case of Focal with loudspeakers of the ranges Focal Kanta , Focal Sopra and Focal Utopia . However, are these speakers curved towards the listener and / or with non-parallel walls superior to conventional models? While the response depends on the quality of the loudspeakers, their filtering and their enclosure, bending cabinet lines often has acoustic advantages comparable to those of purely spherical loudspeakers. Here again, the rear soundwave can flow better.

With their curved lines, the speakers from the Focal Kanta range are designed to optimize phase and reduce distortion, guaranteeing a more precise and natural sound.

Tapered speakers

Some speakers have a “water drop” shape. This type of design is no different from the aforementionned spherical loudspeakers. The objective is to channel the rear soundwave, very often that of the tweeter or a midrange driver, and to guide it towards a narrow zone in which it is absorbed by damping materials. The cone is thus free of interference cause by soundwave return, which lowers the distortion rate. This design principle is mastered to perfection by B&W which applies it to a large number of its speakers.

The B&W Formation Duo connected speakers take advantage of a decoupled tweeter loaded in the iconic Nautilus tube to attenuate rear waves and optimize high frequency precision.

Flat speakers

They do not take up space, are installed directly against a wall and will catch the eye of all your guests. Do wall-mounted or ultra-flat speakers have acoustic advantages? This is not obvious, because the very low volume of these speakers can only result in very limited response in the lows, and above all implies a strong proximity between the speaker cone and the back of the speaker. The circulation of the soundwave is often chaotic, which is synonymous with distortion.

Adopting the shape of a large disc 70 cm in diameter, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9 4th Gen design speaker features 7 speakers for a total power of 950 watts.

Micro-speakers or satellite speakers

Equipped with very small speaker drivers, sometimes barely bigger than an apple, these speakers have a very small footprint, which allows them to be discreetly installed in just about any living room. Howere, the issue is that small speakers means lack of low end. It is impossible to obtain a balanced and pleasant sound with these small speakers, using a subwoofer is thus essential. In this configuration, however, the satellite speakers are very convincing, their small, lightweight cone can deliver a very articulate sound.

The Cabasse IO2 satellite speakers coupled with the Cabasse Pearl Sub subwoofer and amplifier constitute an elegant and efficient hi-fi system.

Metal or glass enclosures

Several brands have tried to swap wood for modern materials. Often put forward, the rigidity of these materials (plexiglass, metal) is supposed to reduce parasitic vibrations and distortion. But this is to the detriment of the damping capacity of the speaker, which is essential to remove any harshness. Only the French brand Waterfall has done relatively well with its glass floorstanding speakers, theWaterfall Iguasçu Evo and Waterfall Victoria Evo .

The Waterfall Victoria Evo speakers boast an atypical design with a frame made entirely of glass. The transparent cabinet contributes to the visual appeal of this beautiful floorstanding speaker.

Natural wood speakers?

If wood remains the best material to make a speaker cabinet, using solid wood is not possible. Because it is a living material, wood works endlessly according to humidity and ambient temperature. In the case of a closed enclosure, a loss of tightness is thus possible. This is why manufacturers resort to MDF (compressed and glued sawdust) or plywood.

The Magnat Transpuls 1500 vintage design speakersfeature an MDF frame with numerous internal reinforcements to limit unwanted vibrations and resonances.

While a speaker cabinet is typically made from compressed wood fibers, the finish can still be real wood veneer. This is frequently the case with high-end speakers. This wood can be untreated or lacquered to highlight the grain.

The vintage Klipsch Heresy IV hi-fi speakers benefit from a very neat finish, with a real wood veneer. Each pair of speakers is clad with the same trunk so that each speaker is virtually indistinguishable from the other.

The return of the big guys

With the comeback of vinyl turntables and tube amps , vintage elements are more popular than ever in the world of hi-fi. Loudspeakers are no exception to this surge in popularity, and many manufacturers are offering vintage looking speakers, with a come-back of full-size speakers, as was common in the 1970s. These speakers generally feature large 10″ drivers or bigger with a paper cone and multi-ply surround. Coupled with a large enclosure, this allows these vintage speakers to deliver powerful and deep bass, as is the case with the Elipson Heritage XLS 15 loudspeaker with its 12″ driver.

The Elipson Heritage XLS 15 loudspeaker takes advantage of a vintage-inspired cabinet and a large 12″ driver to deliver a powerful sound and deep lows.

If you like vintage hi-fi equipment, you may browse ourvintage selection.

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