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LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers by John Watkinson

New Features in Sound Reproduction

John Watkinson


Precision Sound Reproducers

are a new technology based on study of human hearing. After a decade of deve- lopment, they now address all known detection mecha- nisms in the human ear and take into account the way our brain deals with periodic and aperiodic sounds in rever- berant environments. This re- sults in the ability to repro- duce both periodic and aperiodic sounds in a stunningly realistic and natural way, and to greatly reduce listening fatigue.

Picture of a Legend

"Like a 3D Color TV, but then for Sound"

LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers are not just excellent or of better quality. While they are they more importantly present new and uncommon features that you can hear immediately. Like a black and white television set does not address the color-sensitive cells in your eyes, and doesn't take into account the ability of your brain to extract information from the differences between the separate images captured by each eye, traditional loudspeakers generally do not address two of three detection systems in your ears, and don't take into account the way the brain deals with sound in reverberant environments. When you first discover LEGEND Sound reproducers the experience can be compared to seeing a 3D color TV when before you were used to flat black and white units only, and thought that these were the best that ever could be achieved. The discovery can be surprising, it can sometimes even be slightly disturbing for a short while. But once you become used to it, which usually happens all by itself and in a short time, going back might eventually be dissapointing, as the results are rich, pleasing and exciting, as well as allowing for more relaxed listening. Legends allow for actual near-concert expereinces. The fidelity and smoothness on all sounds is stunning.

The human ear has three known detection mechanisms, two of which work in the time domain. Traditional loudspeaker systems do not address these and only talk to the detector that recognises pitch and volume. We then can recognise the reproduced sound but we also note the sound is not ‘real’, is not happening in the room and misses information. Our brain will then try to fill the gaps from memory which in turn creates ‘listening fatigue’. The LEGEND systems correctly address all three detection mechanisms allowing for sounds to appear ‘real’, detailed and complete, and for the listening experience to feel natural and relaxed.

The best room compensation system in existence is the one build into our heads: our brain. But for this natural system to work well, sound must be radiated in a way the brain is used to. Most natural sound events, like when an object hits the floor, are pulse shaped, omnidirectional and have their origin in a small area. LEGEND systems are pulse correct virtual point sources. All sounds emitted originate from the same small spot, that radiates the same way in all directions. Now the brain can deal with the reflections in the same way it does in daily life and relax, while with traditional speakers it must transform, correct  and adapt.

The radiation pattern of a LEGEND Sound Reproducer is not intended to imitate that of a musical instrument. It's intention is to transmit information to the human ear and brain in such a way that our hearing system can deal with the reverberations in the listening room in the most natural way, so that it can recover and appreciate the recorded signal. This will then subsequently allow our brain to reconstruct the sonic space of the recorded environment. LEGEND systems do not require a room compensator or special acoustic treatment of the listening room as the brain will now deal with the reflections naturally.

Tones and Notes, but also Sounds and Noises!

LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers not only reproduce tones and notes (periodic sounds) beautifully, they also reproduce noises and events (aperiodic sounds) with high fidelity, so these also sound realistic. This is something that is lacking in many traditional speakers. With event sounds and noises we mean sounds like clicks and clacks, a closing door, putting a cup back on the table or an object falling on the floor. With traditional speakers we can recognise these sounds but we also clearly hear that they are not real, not happening in the room. With Legends this is different: events do sound real. Our ears have specific detection mechanisms for hearing aperiodic sound events and for hearing tones and timbres (periodic sounds), and the brain has specific ways to deal with these sounds in reverberant environments. Traditional loudspeakers do not take this into account and often only concentrate on the reproduction of tones. Music, however, is also full of non-periodic (noise) events. This is very much true for percussion but also the onsets of many tones are perceived by the 'noise detector' systems in our ears. Not addressing these could be compared to showing black and white pictures in stead of color. Creating a single unit capable of correctly addressing all known human detection systems has been quite a challenge, but now that it exists, the results are quite spectacular and the difference is heard from the first seconds onwards. And the capability to reproduce tones, timbres and dynamics has been taken care of as well, uncompromised, at the best quality levels possible today.

Listening Advantages

Technical Performances

Ultimate transparency and realism

Near concert experience

Can reproduce sonic space

Precise and detailed sound stage

Realistic reproduction of onsets and sound events

Easily adapts to your listening environment

High information capacity

Relaxed listening for long hours, no fatigue

A larger ‘hot-spot’ for the sound image

Excellent Sound in all areas of your room

Transient distortion free

Phase linear over the entire range

360 degree fully omnidirectional

A single and small virtual point source

Includes a secondary, acoustical cross-over

Complete frequency spectrum

High power and dynamics

3 way electromagnetic system

Integrated phase linear subwoofer

Bluid-in high quality power amplfication

”The Loudspeakers you don't hear”

LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers are sometimes called ”The Loudspeakers you don't hear” because they add so little to the signal that you only hear the recorded signal, and not the loudspeaker. They have no 'footprint'. Additionally, the small point sources create a floating sound image so convincing that it seems as if no sound is actually coming from the speaker units itself. A 3D cloud of sound is appearing between the units and the units themselves seem silent. Both these characteristics resulted in the use of the phrase ”The Loudspeakers you don't hear”.


LEGEND 4000 Precision Sound Reproducer by John Watkinson

Description Floor-standing phase linear virtual point source active speaker system
Frequency response 20 Hz – 35 kHz
Max SPL @ 1m 115 dBA
Noise SPL @ 1cm Under hearing treshold at 1 cm
Rise time
down to 15 micro seconds (0,000015 s)
Amplification needed Power amplification is built-in. The units connect to a pre-amplifier output.
Signal processing

Analogue electronic active phase linear proprietary cross-over circuits
Tightly controlled electromagnetic transducers for three frequency bands
Acoustical secondary cross-over for
re-assembly of frequency channels
Acoustical lens and wave guide for creating a small virtual point source

Amplification power Continuous 300W total, Instantanous peak power 800W
Power aplification type Class A-B, a separate amplifier for each frequency channel, convection cooled
Power supply type Toroidal transformer, high grade capacitors and regulators. Dual Symmetrical.
Drive units 2 x 20 cm long throw woofers with 7.5 cm coils and neodymium magnets
1 x 10 cm midrange with 5 cm voice coil and neodymium magnet system
1 x 20 cm bending wave driver with
7 cm coil and neodymium magnets
Acoustical processing Proprietary sound reflector and wave guide system, which re-assembles frequency channels and creates an omnidirectional virtual point source
Enclosure Separately sealed enclosures for each frequency channel, braced plate steel
Input signal Balanced Analogue +4 dbU
Power requirements
120V / 230V AC switchable, 50Hz or 60 Hz, fuse 3A (120V) or 1.6 A (230V)
Input connectors 1 x analogue balanced XLR, 1 x IEC power input connector
Dimensions 75 x 26.5 x 26.5 cm  (29.5 x 10.4 x 10.4 inch)
Weight 25 kg  (55 lbs)
Finish Tissue, painted wood and anodised aluminium
Custom colours and wood finishes are possible
Supplied Accessories
User manual                           

Q: If a system is tested to reproduce all frequencies then all sounds will be reproduced correctly, no?

A: No. Testing a sound reproduction system with only sine waves is like testing a car on a straight track without ever using the wheel or the brakes. Most natural sounds and also music include lots of impulse shaped waveforms, and are not sinusoidal per se. To reproduce impulse shaped random sound events correctly, all frequency channels must work in perfect phase and with equal delays, and so in all directions. They also need to originate all from the same spot or else the reflected sounds will still have their shapes damaged. Also transient distortion needs to be absent for impulse shaped sounds to be reproduced undamaged. Sine wave tests do not measure any of this.

Q: It has been demonstrated that the ear is phase deaf. Why do you bother about phase-linearity?

A: These demonstrations used continuous (steady state) sounds. On steady state tones only one of three detection mechanisms in the ear is active, and indeed, that one, the basilar membrane, does not detect phase. Two other detections are active on the onset of a sounds only. Phase errors are detected quite well at that time, because phase inaccuracies damage pulse shaped waveforms. The result of damaged onsets is lack of realism, a poor sound stage, a narrow sweet spot, sounds not staying sparate, and listening fatigue.

Q: Can you tell a bit more about these sound detection mechanisms in human hearing?

A: We have three sound detection mechanisms. When a new sound is perceived they work sequentially. The first detection is for direction. Only time is measured and only the very first pressure change is used. Volume or pitch are not considered here. Time difference between the two ears provides information about where the sound is coming from. The second analysis is measuring the time between the beginning of the sound event and when the air pressure passes the zero point again. This again is a time measurement only. It provides information about the size of the object that produced the sound. After this we will evaluate pitch, timbre and volume, using the basilar membrane, the third detection mechanism.

Q: Is this new? How come I never knew about this?

A: Altough the human ear did not change recently the knowledge about it did. But it also is not very new as this knowledge is now almost 30 years old, and suspecting such mechanisms is even older: We know for much longer that we can estimate direction precisely and with the basilar membrane mechanism only this could not be fully explained, so these discoveries were not a big surprise. However, the legacy loudspeaker concept does not take this knowledge into account. The basic principles of many new loudspeakers are still similar to those of 70 years ago. Tradition can be hard to beat but one can wonder why a 70 year old loudspeaker concept is still considered current today, while the concepts of radios, TV's, telephones, and cars from that period are now charished for by collectors and museums.

Q: You have presented LEGENDS at High End audio shows. How do they compare to established High End HiFi  systems in general?

A: It beats most of them, if not all. After listening to Legends for a while it can be difficult to go back. Imagine a show where people are comparing subtle differences in the qualities of grey scale rendering. And then there is this one room with a color TV ....

Q: I was told that reflected sound should be eliminated. Why are your speakers radiating all around instead?

A: Most traditional loudspeakers radiate unbalanced sound from the sides and from the back. The reflections of these you will want to eliminate indeed. But time-correct, and well balanced reflected sound is actually an advantage to the listening experience. Human hearing is perfectly at ease with reflected sound during daily life and also with live music. Traditional loudspeakers, however, create challenges to the way human hearing deals with reflected sound, as the compromised sound from the sides or from the back creates difficulties for the brain in linking the reflections with the proper direct sound events. Reflections resulting from a coherent source to begin with, as those coming from an original sound event, from a musical instrument or from a LEGEND omnidirectional point source, will be easy to link for the brain, and will therefore not disturb and instead enhance the listening experience. It will allow our brain to work naturally as a room compensator and reconstruct the original source signal. Heavy room treatement will then not be needed.

Q: What is ‘transient distortion’ and why is it so important to avoid it?

A: Transient distortion is distortion caused by the inertia (mass) of driver membranes and driver assemblies. When a loudspeaker reproduces a sine wave, the mass of the moving parts is not a problem as they oscillate like a string does. Now imagine you pull the signal plug suddenly. The oscillating membrane will not be able to stop immediately and will continue to produce some sound for a short while caused by stored energy, before it comes to rest. Energy can be stored both in the speed of moving mass and/or in springloads. As a result, sound is produced that was not present in the signal. In musical signals sudden changes happen all the time. We call them transients. Traditional loudspeakers often produce significant amounts of this spurious sound, masking real information and causing listening fatigue. This is often felt as ‘aggressive’. And as it damages pulse shaped waveforms as well, it also impairs realism and sound stage. It is a prominent problem in traditional loudspeakers, and the absence of it is already well known as a specific quality of electrostatic loudspeakers. Vynil disks can contain less transients and therefore often are considered less agressive than digital. The aggressiveness, however, often is not due to the CD itself but rather to the inability of the loudspeaker to deal with the transient information present on the CD. Legends can reproduce the transient information faithfully and without the distortion, allowing for digital sources to sound rich, detailed and without aggression.

Q: Phase linear, pulse correct, transient distortion free, omnidirectional, virtual point source, full frequency range, high power and dynamics, build-in phase linear subwoofer,…. It all has been done before. What is so special about your system?

A: The special thing is to have this all united at the same time in a single unit. This is needed because our human hearing is very good at detecting any error in sound reproduction and easily classifies sound as ‘not real’ if anything is missing or wrong. For the magic to happen, ALL these features must be present simultaneously. What use is a speedy car if the breaks are no good? But a car with good breaks and a lousy engine isn’t much fun either. It needs to work all together in the same device. We are not aware of any other products that achieve such a total approach.

Q: What has been done technically to achieve this?

A: The LEGENDs have many technical features. These include new mechanical, new acoustical, and new electronic solutions. Often a combination of these is doing the job. It is a long list, which can not fit here completely. Here are a few examples:
 - New proprietary primary electronic crossover circuits, made to form the exact complement to the
 - Secondary acoustical crossover: Frequency channel outputs are mixed together acoustically inside the cabinet, before exit
 - Proprietary wave guide and sound reflector to obtain phase coherent 360 degrees fully omnidirectional radiation from a small virtual point
 - Drivers with high power motors using intense rare earth magnets and large coils, providing up to 10 times better membrane control than usual
 - Each driver has it’s own specific power amplifier, which is close coupled to the driver: no components between the output power devices and driver voice coils, providing again for better membrane control
 - Low resonance enclosure, with separate sealed enclosures for each frequency channel.

Q: Scientifically / technically very interesting. But what are the listening advantages for me as a music lover?

A: The LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers not only reproduce tones and notes, they also correctly reproduce sounds and noises. As a result, percussion finally sounds real and so do the onsets of notes. This is unique to our knowledge. There are also a number of other listening advantages not common to loudspeakers in general: * The listening experience is close to the concert experience, sounds are very ‘real’. * Transparency: Minimal footprint - You do not hear the loudspeakers, you just hear the music.  * More information from the recording (from the musicians) is conveyed to you as a listener. * Sonic space may be reproduced: You not only hear the music, you can also hear the room the music was recorded in. * Your natural selection filter will work again and will allow you to highlight musicians among others in the sound image at your free choice using your brain. * Thanks to this you can choose to have a different listening experience while listening to the same recording. * A rich, precise and detailed soundstage image. * A wide sweet spot: more listeners can enjoy the music sound stage simultaneously, more freedom of movement. * A high ‘Spouse Acceptance Factor’ (SAF) as the units are of reasonable size and shape and placement is less critical. * Excellent sound in all places of the room. * Generally no acoustic room treatments are needed. * Reduced listning fatigue - you can listen for many hours without getting tired.

Q: What does it sound like? Can you try to compare it to anything I might already know?

A: The most unusual aspect is that it sounds much more like how real sounds sound. This is quite unusual for loudspeakers so you may be surprised and you may need a short while to get used to that, after which you can enjoy music as if you were at the concert hall, or like if you were in a Jazz club.  Closing your eyes makes the illusion more complete as the brain privileges visual information above sound. Some have compared the clarity of the sound to that of electrostatic or panel loudspeakers (as these can also reproduce pulses and phase) but then without the usual drawbacks in size, lack of dynamics, critical placement and lack of, or problems with bass. The reproduction of sonic space is unique however, as this requires both the ability to reproduce pulse shapes and phase as well as the omnidirectional point source. We are not aware of any other loudspeaker concept capable of combining all of these features. The gain in realism is not sublte. It can be heard and noted immediately, within a second. Some have compared it to seeing in color after having know B/W only, or hearing stereo or seeing in 3D for the first time.

Q: Will this work with the music collection I own? Or does it require special recordings to work?

A: The system will work well with any recording. Given the precision of the LEGEND Sound Reproducers you may be able to better differentiate between recording qualities then you could before. To enjoy the best performance of the system, recordings that were less manipulated or less 'tweaked', seem to work best, as these often have better preserved information in the time domain. This includes both recent and old recordings. We have collected quite some and we are happy to demonstrate and share our lists of titles with you. But any recording will sound well or better on a LEGEND system, as LEGENDs reproduce any input signal very accurately.

Q: Will it work with my existing player / amp / room?

A: Yes. Most HiFi players and electronics we tested performed quite well, also for phase and impulse.  Investing in a good DAC can be useful, becaue we found that some of the (cheaper) DAC's can damage pulse shaped wave forms. Power amplification is included so you would connect the LEGEND's to the output of a pre-amp or to the pre-outs of your integrated amp. Your HiFi shop can advice you on how to best connect them. Concerning the room: Eventhough LEGEND Precision Sound Reproducers will work well even when set against a wall, we advice to keep ideally one meter of free space around it if possible for maximum enjoyment. If the room acoustics are good enough to have a relaxed conversation than it will be good enough to listen to LEGEND's as well. Special acoustic room treatment is generally not needed.

Q: I own an excellent DAC. Will it's performance be annihilated by your system digitising the signal again? And also: does it work with vinyl discs?

A: You will be able to enjoy the full performance of your DAC. Our system is entirely analogue and does not digitise the signal in any way. LEGENDs also work well with vinyl discs - you can enjoy an entirely analogue signal chain with the LEGENDs, without digitasion anywhere in the chain.

Q: Why do you use neodymium magnets?

A: Neodymium magnets have stronger fields, empowering the driver motors to better control the membranes and limit distortion. Furthermore, ferrite magnets also have a few other drawbacks for precise sound reproduction: ferrite is an electrical insulator which is not optimal for damping and lastly ferrite allows the magnetic field to move inside the magnet, failing to provide for a sturdy, solid base for the motor to push and pull from.

Q: Why did you make an active system? Is there something wrong with a good external amplifier and passive cross-over filters?

A: Some of the specific processing we do to pair the electronic cross-over with the secondary acoustic cross-over can not be done with only passive components. Furthermore, yes, passive cross-over filters in general do indeed present a number of drawbacks for precise sound reproduction:
- Passive cross-over filters often cause a different delay for each frequency channel. They also often cause frequency dependent delays and phase shifts. Both of these cause pulse shapes to be reproduced incorrectly. It may also cause subtle phase information to become damaged or lost.
- Passive cross-over filters introduce resistive components (coils, resistors) in the final loop between the amplifier and the driver voice coils. This reduces the effective damping factor of the amplifier and compromises membrane control, causing transient distortion and hindering precise reproduction of fast detail and pulse shaped wave forms.
- The resistive components in the final loop also cause losses in power and dynamics. The 300W amplification in a LEGEND produces as much dynamics as the equivalent of 600W, or even 1000W in traditional systems because it is close
coupled to the drivers and there are no losses in cables or filters. Because the amplifiers can now achieve high dynamics and SPL with significantly less electrical power, distortion is again much lower as distortion grows exponentionally with power.
- With passive cross-over filters, the voice coil itself is an actual component in the filter circuit. This causes filter charateristics to change with the temperature of the voice coil. As voice coils can change temparature quite
quickly during normal operation, this causes unwanted and dynamic changes in the characteristics of the filters, creating dynamic inconsistancies in the frequency response of the system, while it is operating.
- Passive cross-over filters allow feedback current from one channel to flow back into an adjacent channel. With separate amplifiers this risk is eliminated.
- A separate amplifier for each frequency channel allows to optimize each power amplifier for the transducer it is actually driving and for the frequency range at hand. Indeed, challenges for amplifying HF (high speed) an LF (high power) are different and satisfying both at the same time in a single power amplifier is a difficult challenge possibly requiring compromises. With properly conceived active systems these difficulties are avoided alltogether and  the compromises uncalled for.

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  Texts on this page were written by and copyright Kommer Kleijn.