Mixing closed and ported cabinets: Part 6

As I showed in Part 5, the phase response of a loudspeaker driver in a closed cabinet is different from one in a ported cabinet in the low frequency region because, the low frequency output of the ported system is actually coming from the port, not the driver.

If we take the phase response plots from the two systems shown in Part 5 and put them on the same graph, the result is Figure 1.

If we calculate the difference in these two plots by subtracting the blue curve from the red curve at each frequency then we can see that a ported cabinet is increasingly out of phase relative to a sealed cabinet as you go lower and lower in frequency. This difference is shown in Figure 2.

Now, don’t look at that graph and say “but you never get to 180º so what’s the problem?” All of the plots I’ve shown in this series are for one specific driver in one specific enclosure, with and without a port of one specific diameter and length. I could have been more careful and designed two different enclosures (with and without a port) that does get to 180º (or something else up to 180º).

In other words: “results may vary”. Every loudspeaker in every cabinet has some magnitude response and some phase response (these are directly related to each other), and they’ll all be different by different amounts. (This is also the reason why I’m neglecting to talk about the fact that, as you go lower in frequency, the ported loudspeaker also drops faster in output level, so even if it were a full 180º out of phase, it would cancel less and less when combined with the sealed cabinet loudspeaker.)

The point of all of this was to show that, if you take two different loudspeakers with two different enclosure types, you get two different phase responses, particularly in the low frequency region.

This means that if you take those two loudspeaker types (the original question that inspired this series was specifically about mixing Beolab 9, Beolab 20, and Beolab 2 in a system where all of those loudspeakers are “helping” to produce the bass) and play identical signals from them in the same room, it’s not only possible, but highly likely that they will wind up cancelling each other. This results in LESS bass instead of MORE, ignoring all other effects like loudspeaker placement, room modes, and so on.

But Beolab 2 has slave drivers, not ports…

Take a look at Figure 3. I’ve shown a conceptual drawing of a ported loudspeaker (showing the mass of the air in the port as a red rectangle) on the left and a loudspeaker with a slave driver (on the bottom – notice it’s missing a former and voice coil, and the diaphragm is thicker to make it heavy) on the right.

This should make it intuitively obvious that a ported loudspeaker and an enclosure with a slave driver are effectively identical. This raises the question of why you would do one rather than the other.

The advantages of using a port instead of a slave driver is that a port will be more “stable” on a production line (since all of the ports on all the loudspeakers you make will be identical in size) and they’ve very cheap to make. The disadvantage of a port is that if the velocity of the air moving in and out of it is too high, then you hear it “chuffing”, which is a noise caused by turbulence around the edges of the port. (If you blow across the top of a wine bottle, you don’t hear a perfect sine wave, you hear a very noisy “breathy” one. The noise is the chuffing.)

The advantage of a slave driver is that you don’t get any turbulence, and therefore no chuffing. A slave driver can also be heavier than the air in a port in a smaller space, so you can get the response of a large port in a smaller loudspeaker. There is a small disadvantage in the fact that there will be production line tolerance variations (but this is not really a big worry), and then there’s the price, which is much higher than a hole in a box.

This means that if you take anything I’ve said above about ported loudspeakers, and replace the word “port” with “slave driver” then it’s still true.

P.S.

If you do have a surround system that not only has a bass management system, but is also capable of re-directing the bass to more loudspeakers than just your subwoofer (as is the case with all current Bang & Olfusen surround processors in the televisions), then all of this is important to remember. You can’t just send the bass to more loudspeakers and expect to get more output. You might get less.

This is true unless you have a Beosound Theatre. This is because the Theatre has an extra bit of processing in the signal path called “Phase Compensation” which applies an allpass filter to the outputs, compensating for the phase differences between loudspeakers in the low frequency region. So, in this one particular case, you should expect to get more output from more loudspeakers.