Although the development of this speaker reads like a very technical story (which in fact it also is) we would like to emphasize that the technique was just part of the complete process.
It took us years to complete the whole project and we can say that a lot of time in between new developments or prototypes went into listening in order to improve the technique. Not the way around. Even comparisons with real life instruments were often on the menu.
About measuring the musical performance of audio components I would like to quote William Bruce Cameron :
“Not everything that can be counted counts.
Not everything that counts can be counted”
And this certainly is true for audio equipment...
So beside the extensive list of technical features and design choices the most important ingredients were “musicality” and “soul”. Certainly ingredients that can’t be measured!
This is why at Ilumnia the technique has always been subservient to the sound.
For the same reason we don't use measurements as a sales tool. Today, everyone with a computer can build a speaker with a ruler flat frequency response. Unfortunately, this is no guarantee for a great speaker.
However, we do publish some measurements on this website if we think they can help us explain what we accomplished with a certain design choice.
"Make it possible for music lovers around the world to enjoy listening to music in the most compelling way possible"
"To produce a loudspeaker with a real-life sound as if it was coming from a natural source. This means high resolution, free of artifacts and with a natural ease"
“real-life sound” and “natural source” both sound like marketing terms every company uses but at Ilumnia they are not. We value these qualities more than anything else. Every choice we made, every design detail, all efforts we did were done to support these qualities. In terms of music reproduction they represent the very difference between “good” and “great” and can only be measured to a certain extend.
Psycho-acoustic research has proven that the brain can compensate for quite a large deal of distortion (such as acoustic artifacts, resonances, reflections … ). Otherwise we could not hear as good as we do. Think about a busy street full of cars, building constructions, talking people and so on. In this cacophony of sound waves we can still localize, isolate and recognize the sound of someone yelling to us from across the street. It’s not the ear, it’s the brain who helps us out.
But the result of our powerful brain is that at first hearing there seems to be no big difference between a “really good” speaker and a “great” speaker. It’s only after a while that the listener experiences listening fatigue.
What happened? His brain is getting tired of constantly correcting non-linear distortion errors. The sound seems to get harsch, mechanical and unnatural. The switch of the amplifier goes to “off”.
So “listening fatigue” is not a high-end fashion word but it’s key in designing a “great” speaker. It has little to do with tonal balance but with everything else. Tonal balance is key in reproducing the right timbres but has little to do with the experience of “natural sound” (except if the tonal balance is really bad of course). Tonal balance is sometimes referred to as being linear distortion which does not hurt the brain so much and for some people can even be pleasant in case of added “warmth”.
(Just want to mention here that our speaker is completely neutral regarding tonal balance. There is no added warmth or faked detail by lifting lower or higher frequencies)
Other kinds of distortion such as resonances, driver non-linearities and so on are much more important to avoid. They are often referred to as non-linear distortion.
This is also why the importance of room-acoustics is sometimes a little overrated. Room acoustics do have an influence on frequency response but in a far lesser degree on non-linear distortion which is the “bad” kind of distortion.
When we started the project back in 2010 it became clear that with existing technology it was impossible to improve the intrinsic quality of sound significantly and do better than existing brands. Based on current speaker technology everything has already been tried thousands of times.
Even the best speaker cabinet, the finest and most expensive filter parts and the most exotic materials cannot compensate for the distortion which is already generated at the source : the driver.
A complete redesign of the speaker driver would be necessary in order to outperform current technology.
The idea was simple : eliminating all root causes instead of trying to cure them as we have been doing for over more than 50 years now. A simple idea but, as we have experienced, difficult to achieve.
It took us 7 years to come to the point where we are today. It’s been quite a journey but the results are astonishing and do lift sound reproduction to a higher, unheard level of performance.