MEADOWLARK HARRIER CLASSIC

Forward into the past! A departure from our signature sleek-modern form-follows-function look, into a well loved and accepted traditional format.

We're out to show that within the form factor shared by a few venerated British makers, and at least one domestic maker of high sensitivity designs, we can demonstrate the obvious superiority of next gen tech..

As an avid proponent of Next Gen, what could be more fun than appearing in sheep's clothing, going head-to-head, and destroying them with sheer performance?

Up to the minute, top-top shelf drivers coupled directly to Ncores in brutally well built enclosures, a certain level of filter design chops, plus Dirac Live room correction?

All along, I have paid little attention to this sector of the market, but it sure looks to me that most of what's going on is based on older generation drivers. The gist of marketing appeals seems to be that the designs have been refined over decades. Just me but: “refined over decades” pretty much means: maxed out long ago. Crimony, by the time you’re touting silver voice coils (on a 90s era midline driver), you’ve sadly gotten lost in the weeds. But apparently there are enough customers who are comfy enough on that garden path to perpetuate a technology that, frankly, is not capable of transducing HD Audio.

This will not be a contest. Not on any count. Not on performance. And certainly not on value.

Last metaphor: the one about the applecart.

Here, I'll get into the fine details about how Harrier does what she does. First, the drawing that got things going. Some of the stuff that's coming is redundant upon the SHOP PICS thread, but it all wants to be together.

harrier layout v4.jpg
 
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TWO WAY or THREE WAY?

As a designer, my peers and I have always struggled with the ugly trade offs inside the design of the passive three way’s midrange system. Truth be told: no one's ever aced it.

Purpose designed midrange drivers have been around, with smaller lighter moving systems, shorter voice coils and cones that do a much nicer job of not screaming at the top of their band than the typical midbass driver used in a two way. The shorter coils are able to stay more fully immersed and centered in the motor’s static magnetic field, maximizing motor force, minimizing distortion and upping dynamic range.

So you'd think that totally nailing it would be doable. But no.

The problem lies with the requisite passive bandpass filter. A woofer 'looks back' at the amplifier thru a low pass filter; the tweeter thru a high pass. Not good. But the midrange is burdened with both types, and in series. Horrible. In the typical third order bandpass filter, there are two inductors and two capacitors in series with the driver, plus more of those in parallel. You know that those parts perform their function by storing energy and releasing it a moment later. The signal that arrives at the voice coil is both delayed and smeared. Further, toss in at least one resistor and the amp completely loses any 'grip' it would have had by electrical damping. So the motion of the cone relative to the signal suffers.

You'd like the radiation characteristics of the speaker to evenly energize the room as opposed to merely working well at the hot seat, a property known as 'power response'. But the issues involved in coordinating the output of three drivers are complex, including a trade off that pushes designers toward more complex midrange filters. Our best shots have been with the simplest possible filters but, sadly, few designers can pull it off, those being far and away the most difficult to execute.

As an engineer, it's just a messy business with way too many 'splitting of babies'.

The net effect is a degree of degradation that can make the two way sound better by comparison - consequently the perception that the simplicity of the two way makes for a more pleasing presentation than all but the most well designed three ways.

That's pretty much the way it's been.

Then.....WHACK!!! Next Gen enters and drives a stake thru the heart of the problem. Using the latest and greatest midrange drivers directly coupled to their dedicated amps, not only do we walk away from the signal degradation/electrical damping problems, but we enter a new era of resolution and dynamics. What we're now experiencing is unreal. Actually, I said that wrong, it's the opposite. While fully reproducing the dynamics and detail of HD audio is beyond the reach of conventional audio, our next gen designs shine brightly. It's happy work!

Just me, my gut, the reasons for building a two way have been reduced to: money and size. Sure that makes sense for HT, but not for serious music listening......so I'm thinking I'm about done with the idea. I'm saying: one listen to Harrier and you'll be done with two ways too.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Excellent read. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.

You nail the issue that even us amateur speaker builders have always struggled with. Yes, the three way should be the best option, but we could never make those mid ranges live up to their promise. You could hear that promise in those weird single driver systems, but they just lost way too much musical information to make the trade off against the mid range magic worthwhile. Now, it appears, we actually have the best of all worlds.
 
"We live in the midrange." An oft repeated adage in our biz, too bad I have no idea to whom to attribute it. But it's spot-on; any speaker is only as good as its vocal range presentation. We're so familiar with the sound of real live voice, so we instantly pick up on the falseness of our stereo's portrayal.

Just me, the gap between real and reproduced voice is target #1. All along there's been a shortfall on the recording/storage - LP and CD - side that's pretty much let us speaker makers off the hook. But that's changing. The recording guys, now free of the media limitations, are moving forward. A couple of weeks ago, Patricia Barber's new album, Clique, done with the help of Roon's guys set me on my heels. Stunning vocals and piano. Beyond what can be reproduced conventionally.

If it's not already, it will soon be painfully obvious where the bottleneck is. Speaker designers: the gauntlet lies at your feet. If you keep doing the same old thing, you're finished.

ANATOMY OF A GREAT MIDRANGE DRIVER

Obviously, any three way's midrange system will be limited by what the transducer can do. What we want is tight signal tracking, 1:1 DR across the band and up to our max output target, an absence of artifact and a uniform radiation pattern inside the intended band. Unlike a midwoofer which must split its duties between moving properly at 50Hz and 2KHz, the dedicated mid can zero in on a smaller set of problems.

It can dispense with the need for excursion, thereby shortening and lightening the coil. A shorter coil puts a greater percentage of itself in the magnetic gap which raises sensitivity, reducing current demand, greatly improving DR. Owing to its tiny diameter, dispersion issues pretty much go away. And the position of the tiny moving mass can be more strongly controlled by the motor.

Let's take a look at our CHAMPION 13cm midrange under the Satori brand from SB Acoustics. This thing is all-out, top-of-class.


20210829_101106 (1).jpg

More than just a pretty face, stiff yet well damped curved diaphragm of proprietary material that holds its composure at the top of its band, at high pressures. Typically, diaphragms squirm and deform and audibly so, what's called: cone cry.

Nice machining! Ample vent. Symmetrical lead in wires to avoid cocking the coil with stroke, a common shortfall.

20210829_100956.jpg

A symmetrical spider that's open on both sides - absolutely essential, though pretty rare. Very little coil outside the gap, plenty of venting on the former. These attributes do two things: eliminate the fore/aft output asymmetries common to most drivers plus keep the coil cool, a necessity for holding DR. The surround is very soft and compliant and the spider is oversized, so there's a minimum of elastic restraint on cone motion. Again: DR.

20210829_100643.jpg

Neodymium drive makes for a relatively small motor but with a high flux density, hence high motive force. So the amp, by virtue of its near zero output impedance, "tells" the cone what its position must be, moment by moment, and with a nice tight grip so long as there are no intervening filter parts. Plus the smaller motor is much more 'out of the way' of the backwave than in other drivers; freer cone motion, better fore/aft symmetry and less reflection.

Great materials, great execution, great part-to-part consistency. The guys at SB have really raised the bar with this one.

It's got every trick in the book and one that's not - an elastically decoupled motor. Truth be told: I'd pay twice what I'm paying for this part.


20210829_100636.jpg
 
Last edited:

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
"We live in the midrange." An oft repeated adage in our biz, too bad I have no idea to whom to attribute it. But it's spot-on; any speaker is only as good as its vocal range presentation. We're so familiar with the sound of real live voice, so we instantly pick up on the falseness of our stereo's portrayal.

Just me, the gap between real and reproduced voice is target #1. All along there's been a shortfall on the recording/storage - LP and CD - side that's pretty much let us speaker makers off the hook. But that's changing. The recording guys, now free of the media limitations, are moving forward. A couple of weeks ago, Patricia Barber's new album, Clique, done with the help of Roon's guys set me on my heels. Stunning vocals and piano. Beyond what can be reproduced conventionally.

If it's not already, it will soon be painfully obvious where the bottleneck is. Speaker designers: the gauntlet lies at your feet. If you keep doing the same old thing, you're finished.

ANATOMY OF A GREAT MIDRANGE DRIVER

Obviously, any three way's midrange system will be limited by what the transducer can do. What we want is tight signal tracking, 1:1 DR across the band and up to our max output target, an absence of artifact and a uniform radiation pattern inside the intended band. Unlike a midwoofer which must split its duties between moving properly at 50Hz and 2KHz, the dedicated mid can zero in on a smaller set of problems.

It can dispense with the need for excursion, thereby shortening and lightening the coil. A shorter coil puts a greater percentage of itself in the magnetic gap which raises sensitivity, reducing current demand, greatly improving DR. Owing to its tiny diameter, dispersion issues pretty much go away. And the position of the tiny moving mass can be more strongly controlled by the motor.

Let's take a look at our CHAMPION 13cm midrange under the Satori brand from SB Acoustics. This thing is all-out, top-of-class.


View attachment 39266

More than just a pretty face, stiff yet well damped curved diaphragm of proprietary material that holds its composure at the top of its band, at high pressures. Typically, diaphragms squirm and deform and audibly so, what's called: cone cry.

Nice machining! Ample vent. Symmetrical lead in wires to avoid cocking the coil with stroke, a common shortfall.

View attachment 39265

A symmetrical spider that's open on both sides - absolutely essential, though pretty rare. Very little coil outside the gap, plenty of venting on the former. These attributes do two things: eliminate the fore/aft output asymmetries common to most drivers plus keep the coil cool, a necessity for holding DR. The surround is very soft and compliant and the spider is oversized, so there's a minimum of elastic restraint on cone motion. Again: DR.

View attachment 39264

Neodymium drive makes for a relatively small motor but with a high flux density, hence high motive force. So the amp, by virtue of its near zero output impedance, "tells" the cone what its position must be, moment by moment, and with a nice tight grip so long as there are no intervening filter parts. Plus the smaller motor is much more 'out of the way' of the backwave than in other drivers; freer cone motion, better fore/aft symmetry and less reflection.

Great materials, great execution, great part-to-part consistency. The guys at SB have really raised the bar with this one.

It's got every trick in the book and one that's not - an elastically decoupled motor. Truth be told: I'd pay twice what I'm paying for this part.


View attachment 39263


For those who can interpret the specs:
What an incredibly engineered and built component that is. Just lovely.
 
And is the prey unaware that it is being hunted? Or does it know it's being hunted, but is too wrapped up in it's current pursuit to change direction? Sort of like a buck in rut during deer season.
I'm thinking that what's on the mind of dinner matters not. Up here we get to observe a great variety of birds of prey, and it sure looks like they're awfully good at surprising their prey. I'd like to be as good at my job as they are.

Harrier pics! Two we purchased from Shutterstock, the rest in use by permission from my brother's catch:

i-DXDgfvM-X4.jpgi-G4KS2P6-X4.jpgi-Mx6SZch-X4.jpgi-qRG8hd6-X5.jpgi-tN8Jr8M-X5.jpgshutterstock_793317565.jpgshutterstock_1006017937.jpg
 

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Outstanding Pat. I've been clamoring for a modern 3-way or 2-way that incorporates a 10" or 12" woofer for quite some time, as you say other than the offerings by Harbeth etc. In the vain of the AR3 and similar.
What size woofer are you thinking?
And bravo on Patricia Barber. her stuff has been a quality standard for me as well for some time now.
 
Outstanding Pat. I've been clamoring for a modern 3-way or 2-way that incorporates a 10" or 12" woofer for quite some time, as you say other than the offerings by Harbeth etc. In the vain of the AR3 and similar.
What size woofer are you thinking?
And bravo on Patricia Barber. her stuff has been a quality standard for me as well for some time now.
That yellow eye? Yep, couldn't help it, scroll down:


The woofer in Harrier is the outstanding Satori WO24P-8, a 9.5 incher. I walked away from a 30 year membership in the Scan Speak Club for this line. The distributor pushed the 19 into my reluctant hands - and - crap! - I was done in two minutes. Sold off my inventory of SS to the guys here for a song. The 24 expresses mid and upper bass timbre like nothing we've heard, very dynamically free and nimble on the details. I'll post some pics and details about it next.

FWIW - It does a beautiful job of relating Patrick Mulcahy's bass on Patricia Barber's Clique album.
hot photo rig.
 
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