SoundScape 12 overviewthe storyIn early 2005, with the exchange of a few high-fives and much celebration, we launched the Veracity HT3’s, which became our most popular model over the next several years. But it wasn’t too soon afterward that we began to ask ourselves, “how are we going to top this?”It certainly would not be an easy task. And there was no reason to launch a new flagship model unless it set a new mark of excellence in sound reproduction. So we began the process of establishing a set of goals for the “project.” The HT3’s had great bass extension (29Hz), but as long as we were setting new benchmark goals, why not go for flat response from the holy grail of 20Hz to well beyond audibility. Superior dispersion, ambiance control, tight, musical bass, lower distortion, increased transparency, enhanced accuracy and a deeper, wider sound stage were all included in the new targets.the plan of attackOne commitment made at the onset of the project is that we would make no decision based on cost. At every point, decisions would be made based on what was needed to maximize performance. This was to be a cost-is-no-object proposition. And if the resulting speaker was too expensive, we would simply build pairs for ourselves and move on. Plain and simple, this would be an exercise to see what we could accomplish with no limits.drivers, drivers, driversThe first step was to identify the drivers that would be used. Since transparency was extremely important, we knew a ribbon tweeter would be in the mix. And RAAL was producing some of the best ribbon tweeters on the planet. So we contacted RAAL and had them produce a custom tweeter for us. That was easy.The woofers would be equally easy since we were extremely pleased with the performance of the drivers we had been using in the HT3’s. With a few improvements we were able to develop new 10” and 12” models perfectly suited to the task. The type of cabinet they would be mounted in was a different matter. More on that in a moment...The midrange was a bit more challenging. We started by purchasing samples of ALL of the finest high-end midrange drivers we could get our hands on. We even had some custom built to see if we could improve upon those that were currently available. We tested them, one by one, for accuracy, power handling, dispersion and a other variables.We narrowed down the possibilities and set out to design cabinets to test the remaining drivers as full-blown prototypes we could A/B against one another. It took an entire year of working with multiple midrange drivers until we settled on an Accuton midrange. In the end, no other driver came close.the cabinet designThis was one of the most challenging aspects of the entire project. We had decided, early-on, that the woofer cabinet and the midrange/tweeter section would be separate. By isolating each section, we would dramatically reduce the transfer of resonances from the woofer section to the midrange/tweeter section, keeping things very clean. This was particularly important since a woofer section operating down to 20Hz would certainly generate vibrations.The next thing we decided was that the woofer section would have very thick walls - 2” in the case of the SoundScape 12’s and 1 1/2” in the case of the SoundScape 10’s. They would also need to be very well braced. But what type of cabinet would work best?We first worked with Paul Kittinger to design a transmission line cabinet to generate the lowest tuning possible. But the air velocity at the terminus was simply too high at low frequencies and entirely too noisy. So we next built a prototype ported cabinet. Same result. Sure, we could have increased the diameter of the port to eliminate port noise, but now the port would have been far too long to fit in the cabinet. So that was out.We discussed the situation with our friend Jeff Bagby and he designed a woofer section utilizing dual, horizontally-opposed passive drivers (read about it here). This was the perfect solution - extremely extended response with absolutely no port noise. And since the passives were side-firing and on opposing sides, their motion canceled out any vibrations. What’s more, they perform well closer to the wall than typical rear-ported speakers.With the woofer section set to go, it was on to the midrange/tweeter section.In order to maintain maximum dispersion, it was decided that the tweeter should have virtually no baffle surrounding it. Of course, you need to mount it in something. So we developed a baffle that was only 1/4” wider and taller than the driver itself. For the remainder of the tweeter cabinet section, we would sculpt the cabinet to as close to the tweeter body as possible. Once the rear of the enclosure passed the body of the tweeter, it would be reduced, on a radius, to nothing as soon as possible.Dennis Murphy was meanwhile working on experiments with a midrange section in a sort of “transmission line”. In other words, it would be like a small enclosure with no rear panel. This offered some very interesting performance properties. Since the rear of the driver was open, the result would be increased ambiance. But unlike an open baffle speaker, there would be no cancellation at 90-degrees where the out-of-phase signal from the rear of the driver meets the sound from the front of the driver. What’s more, by stuffing the line with various amounts of acoustic fill (or even closing the rear off to create a “sealed” enclosure), you could vary the amount of ambiance to suite your taste.Finally, we would develop a polymer sheet that would sit between the woofer section and the midrange/tweeter section. This barrier would absorb vibrations from the woofer section and isolate the midrange/tweeter section, keeping the midrange and treble pristine.stacked boxesOnce all of these speaker design decisions were made, we were left with an assemblage of boxes - a very large woofer section, a much smaller midrange section and an even smaller tweeter enclosure...pretty ugly to say the least.Mike Vettraino worked some CAD magic to develop a very complex midrange/tweeter section that did a good job transitioning the elements into a unified whole that flowed from one section to the next. With that out of the way, the only remaining question was how we would go about building the upper section. We first tried a tans-lamination process shown in the photograph above of an early prototype cabinet. This worked OK, but it involved a tremendous amount of expensive hand labor. What’s more, with laminations such as this, the seems tend to telegraph through the finish over time. So we started searching for alternatives.Fortunately for us, we are located in the Detroit metro area - home to some very talented engineers and designers who are used to building models and molds used to create complex designs for the automotive industry. The decision was made to mold the top section. Creating the mold was expensive and the cost per molded top section was not inexpensive either. But those costs would be offset by a significant reduction in labor. And there were other benefits as well.Since the top sections would be molded with polymers, we could design a polymer that would be even more dense than MDF, Baltic birch plywood or bamboo. And we could develop another type of polymer that would help isolate the midrange/tweeter section from the woofer section. This could be designed to absorb any remaining woofer cabinet vibrations (which were already minimized in that section design) and prevent them from being transmitted to the midrange/tweeter section.SoundScape was bornThis design is certainly the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken. At the onset, there was no guarantee that we would succeed. But after four years of effort, the SoundScape design is now a reality.Obviously, we are very proud of our new flagship model. In the end, the results exceed even our most ambitious goals. Jeff Bagby designed a woofer section that will out-perform all but an extremely small number of high-end subwoofers. Dennis Murphy took some of the best drivers in the world and designed a perfectly integrated crossover. And a great deal of credit has to John, Mike, Juan Luis, Ammar, Teresa and Sam - our extremely dedicated and talented staff members who built prototype after prototype and never let go of the dream.We hope you enjoy our new flagship models as much as we have developing this revolutionary new design. Happy Listening!
a revolutionary new level of performance...four years under development, SoundScaperepresents a milestone in sound reproduction