The Cogent True-to-life Horn Speakers at CES 2006

Two large white squaring horns, one on top of each other, for each speaker

Still thinking about these speakers and what their impact is going to be, both on me personally, and on our industry and audiophiles in general.

Although the speakers had numerous problems (speakers did not dissapear in any way, horn resonances and reflections along with buzzing and dullness in the subwoofer and no real highs to speak of) they did some things so very, very well that it makes me wonder…

These speakers were one of the very few (two?) horn speakers that do not have offensive, to me, horn colorations. They reproduced transients in their target frequency range effortlessly. These kind of REALISTIC (not overly exaggerated, not compressed and muffled) transient details we have heard only with the best speakers: Marten Design Coltranes, Kharma Midi Grandes (with the Tenors), and the Acapellas can do this – usually requiring very careful amplifier pairing and it comes off not quite as effortlessly – often with more of a ‘the speaker is gripped really hard by the amp’ sound. The SPACE aorund the microdynamics was awesome. The timbre was very, very rich. The sound was very big and open (somewhat an artifact of the nearfield listening position).

Two large white squaring horns, one on top of each other, for each speaker
So, did you notice that I am describing sounds and not music? Nothing about whether a piano sounds like a piano, whether sounds were properly positioned and imaged in a realistic soundstage (it was not too bad, as Radiohead Amnesiac played back well and that first track stresses this exact thing, amoung others….:-)), whether the dynamics was balanced between the quiet sections and the loud, etc. etc. etc. Whether these are done well, poorly, or excellently, I cannot answer given the extreme nearfield listening position and because I was, addmittedly, hypnotized by other aspects of the sound at the time of listening.

A Mythical Commercial-Quality Speaker Built Using Cogent Hardware and Designs

Two large white squaring horns, one on top of each other, for each speaker
Will audiophiles like and buy such speakers? Their ease of drivability with even modest sized amps and their kick-ass dynamics seems to be a win win situation. The problems as I see it are the lows, the highs, and the appearance.

The lows at CES were produced by a very large folded horn subwoofer. This configuration will just not be acceptable to most people. So integration with a common standalone subwoofer would be required. It would also be great if the Cogent speaker went down to 30 Hz. so that the speaker could stand-on-its-own without requiring a subwoofer but this may be impossible while still keeping the rest of the frequencies pristine.

The highs were absent; as I understand it everything above 10K Hz was left to the listener’s imagination. One of the numerous super tweeters, for example the Corona plasma tweeeter, could, however, be paired with the Cogent horns to provide the necessary high frequencies.

The appearance, which is already quite good and certainly better than all of the GOTO and ALE horns I could find on the net, is still not as livingroom friendly as most people would probably prefer. But a little work on the paint job, using a composite material instead of wood for the construction, a nice veneer, and perhaps adding a little curvature to both strengthen the horn to minimize resonances and to minimize those reflections of sounds off of the room back to the horn and then back to the listener’s ears.

So here we then have a speaker that uses 3 different technologies, each the best at reproducing music in its frequency range. Integrating these different technologies into a seemless whole will take work and genius. Sound familiar?

These will also be expensive. Figure a minimum of $50K for the horns (it costs $32K for the drivers alone), $5K for the subwoofer, and $5K for a super-tweeter. $60K is expensive – and a speaker this expensive will probably require a dealer network, so add some on top of the $60K for that.

So, the answer to my question – will this be really popular with audiophiles, is I do not know (I know, all this and I cop out at the end. The real answer is yes, for some audiophiles, yes. But Wilson Audio does not need to get too worried yet). There are a lot of weird speakers out there in the $60K to $100K range – with a lot less potential than this one.

Further reading on the Cogent horn speakers at CES:
Audio Asylum