In this episode of Ask The Expert we're looking into what speaker grilles bring to the table in terms of aesthetic versus acoustic considerations, as well as what modern 'smart grilles' can offer.
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What are some of the advantages of using grilles versus not using grilles?
If we consider what purpose grilles perform, it's first and foremost to protect the drivers, the secondary benefit being a change in visual appearance of the loudspeaker. In terms of sound, it's rather simple – all Dynaudio loudspeakers are tuned to sound best without the grille.
The reason for this is that anything in front of the drivers will inevitably affect the sound. In terms of sound performance, this is more often than not a detrimental effect. For that reason, at Dynaudio we tune our loudspeakers without the grille on.
Each Dynaudio speaker comes with a grille that you can choose attach, either to protect or to change the appearance, but it will sound somewhat worse if you attach the grille.
What affects the sound coming out of the speaker when you attach the grille is obviously the cloth itself, but also the frame that the cloth sits on. Because the sound from the speaker drivers travels across the front of the speakers – and around the speakers – the sound hits the frame of the grille, which in turn causes diffraction of the sound going into the room, and ultimately unwanted distortion effects.
Therefore, even without a cloth, the grille would still affect the sound. No matter how good the cloth is, the frame itself will still somewhat impact the sound. To reiterate: a Dynaudio speaker will sound better without the grille.
There are of course different types of cloth, and different qualities of cloth, and what's important is how "open" that cloth is i.e how acoustically transparent it is. All of the cloth that we use on Dynaudio speakers is, of course, extremely acoustically transparent, and that is something that is taken into consideration when designing speakers.
One of the speakers where we went to extremes in that regard is the active Focus speakers. On Focus, we included a small sensor on the front of the speaker, so that when you attach the grille the speaker detects that the grille is on. This then automatically activates a custom EQ curve, wich we designed to compensate for the grille sitting in front of the drivers. With this EQ curve activated, the speaker sounds much more similar to when you don't have the grille attached, making as little impact to the sound as possible.
So, we are very careful with how we design grilles, and often we integrate them into the design of the speakers.
But… if you want the perfect sound, take off the grille!
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