Danley Sound Labs SH-50
May 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin
Quality sound, coverage, and control indoors and out.
Every once in a while, an incredible new innovation arrives to bowl us all over, and it is a real treat to savor that first moment of “Wow. I can't believe what I'm hearing.” We all remember such moments when we first experienced some amazing new technology, and we carry those memories around with us forever. If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because I am. I recently had a chance to hear the entire line of Danley Sound Labs products, and I was truly blown away.
Tom Danley has always been known as a loudspeaker designer who “zigs” where others “zag,” and these latest designs do not betray that heritage. He approaches speaker design with some pretty high science in mind, the kind that has seen him involved in ground zero bombing simulation, jet engine active noise cancellation, and sonic boom generators. There are speakers that look great on paper, and there are those that actually sound good and perform as described. These speakers fit both descriptions. Unfortunately, space does not allow for in-depth treatment of all the Danley speakers, so I will focus primarily on the SH-50, but we'll address each of the speakers at least a bit.
An incredible amount of focus has been placed on vertical arrays in recent years, and while there are many applications where a vertical array is the desired solution, a nicely controlled horizontal array is actually preferable in many, if not most applications. The SH-50 combines two of Tom Danley's patent-pending designs, the tapped horn and the synergy horn, to create a speaker that delivers high quality with excellent pattern control. It's housed in a trapezoidal Baltic birch cabinet that measures 28"×28"×22.5" (H×W×D). If you've ever seen the Sound Physics Labs loudspeakers or the Yorkville Unity series loudspeakers, you've seen Danley's Unity horn designs. Although the SH-50 appears similar to a Unity horn, the synergy horn constitutes a significant improvement over the Unity design, with a new patent pending.
Imagine a pyramid with drivers mounted on its sides — driving toward the interior of the pyramid. When you flip the pyramid over, you'll find apertures that pass the energy dispersed by the drivers. The drivers are correctly phase-related to achieve a tightly controlled 50°×50° dispersion pattern from the speaker as a whole. Imagine our pyramid again — this is a three-way system, with a 1in. throat HF driver atop the pyramid facing downward, and four 5in. MF drivers and two 12in. woofers around the pyramid. This entire construct is contained within the aforementioned trapezoidal cabinet. This is an efficient speaker at 100dBSPL at 1W/1M, and capable of substantial SPL (132dBSPL continuous/135dBSPL program). Frequency response is 45Hz to 18kHz, ±3dB, and 36Hz to 24kHz, ±10dB, so if subwoofers are not possible, you'll still have plenty of low end. This was particularly evident when I heard the speakers outdoors. The SH-50 features NL4MP (Speakon) connectors, and it exhibits a nominal impedance of 6. Indeed, recommended power is anywhere from 10W to 4000W at 6, as is a 35Hz Butterworth HPF with a 24dB/octave slope.
Far-and-away pattern control is one of the most important factors in speaker design. We all want to be able to direct energy where we want it and keep it out of areas where we don't want it. This is where the SH-50 really shines. I got to hear these speakers in both indoor and outdoor settings. Outdoors, I got to hear a pair of them in a tightly packed array. I was able to walk around a nice large open area, and even way out at 250ft. or more. The energy dispersion dropped off very rapidly at the edge of the coverage area. Within the coverage pattern, the entire signal was there, throughout the frequency spectrum. Obviously, when I passed outside the edge of the coverage zone, high frequencies were the first to go, but just a few more steps, and much lower frequencies rolled off significantly.
Off-axis (front-to-back) rejection was also very good. It's plausible to carry on a conversation standing directly behind these speakers when they're delivering substantial SPLs. Frankly, I haven't heard better pattern control in any speaker, ever. These are long-throw cabinets with incredible pattern control, and in addition to all that, the fidelity of the reproduction is simply excellent. My outdoor listening experience benefited from a couple of Danley's TH-115 subwoofers, and with the two pairs, solid SPL was easily achieved with no audible distortion.
Indoors, I was treated to a 5.1 surround array in the 60'×80'×15' demo room with SH-50s in the Lf, C, and Rf positions, and SH-100s in the Ls and Rs positions. A DTS-20 handled the deep subwoofer chores, with a TH-115 for the higher output/impact tasks. A TH-112 subwoofer was switched in on occasion, as was a TH-Vortex and the diminutive TH-28. A wide array of program material was presented, and at various SPLs. Due to the excellent pattern control, the imaging was excellent.
Again, fidelity was truly excellent — enough so that I'll go out on a limb and say that these sound reinforcement speakers sounded as good or better than some studio monitors I've heard. Even at significantly high SPLs, I never heard any audible distortion whatsoever. The high end is clear and bright without being brittle. The upper mids, particularly in the human voice intelligibility range, are simply crystal clear. The lower mids are full and warm, and the bottom end was nothing short of astonishing. If you attended any rock concerts in the late '80s or early '90s, you almost certainly heard Tom Danley's breakthrough subwoofer designs. There are subwoofers that just disperse a lot of energy in the low end, and then there are those that actually reproduce low-frequency instruments with accuracy. Danley's tapped horn subs don't just rumble — they actually reproduce instruments faithfully. This was one of the most impressive aspects of the demonstration.
THE BAR HAS BEEN RAISED
If you ever have the opportunity to listen to any or all of the Danley designs, do. You'll be glad you did. The tapped horn subwoofer range (TH-Vortex, TH-28, TH-112, TH-115, and DTS-20) — the type of speaker for which Tom Danley was first celebrated — is truly excellent. The SH-100 is also excellent for applications that require a smaller speaker that's capable of substantial SPL with high fidelity. Above all, however, the SH-50 is a truly momentous design, throwing down the gauntlet for other designers. These speakers are intended for any number of applications — including houses of worship, theatrical surround, live music venues, stadiums, discos, and high-end home theater — and they are capable of high-SPL, high-fidelity reproduction with amazing pattern control in any of these applications. Shoot these speakers with Smaart, or any software you like, and you'll discover the results of an incredible design. These are all superior loudspeakers that should be on the short list for any contractor or integrator who needs high-quality, high-SPL, highly controlled reproduction.
Company: Danley Sound Labs www.danleysoundlabs.com
Pros: Exceptional pattern control, outstanding fidelity.
Cons: None to speak of.
Applications: Houses of worship, theatrical surround, live music venues, stadiums, discos, and high-end home theater
Coverage Pattern: 50°×50°
Operating Frequency Range: 50Hz-18kHz ±3dB / 37Hz-24kHz ±10dB
Sensitivity (1W/1M): 100dB (-1dB 80Hz-20kHz)
Maximum Output: 129dBSPL continuous/132dBSPL program
Input Power Ratings: 800W continuous/1600W program
Recommended Amp Power: 800W-1600W at 6Ω
Nominal Impedance: 6Ω
Minimum Impedance: 3.5Ω at 16kHz
Recommended Signal Processing: 35Hz Butterworth highpass at 24dB/octave
Drivers: 1"×1" HF, 4"×5" MF, 2"×12" LF
Input Connections: 2 NL4MP (Speakon)
Enclosure Type: Baltic birch
Dimensions: 28"×28"×22.5" (H×W×D)
John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Audio Services in Phoenix, and consults in both studio commission and live sound applications. He is also a key figure at the renowned Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.
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