After reviewing the Steinway Lyngdorf Model B, I was curious to how Peter and his crew reached this result. Think technology, design, materials and philosophy. Luckily for us, Peter was happy to provide us with all the details during an in-depth interview.

From itch to new dipole design with physical bass

I had the itch from almost two years after we designed the Model D to come up with something new. I didn’t design the model D, that did a couple of other guys at that time. About ten years ago we wanted to make something that was more expensive than the Model S and less expensive than the Model C. Our speaker engineer or acoustic engineer was working on concepts all the time. We needed to do something that was significantly better than the Model S and less expensive than the Model C. He came to me with a lot of ideas, things that where more expensive than the Model S. But …we didn’t end up with something that sounded better than the Model S, even at three times the price. So, I was getting really frustrated. When I was on my way back from Korea, it just dawned on me that we should follow the footsteps of the Model D. We needed to do something that was scientifically less than the Model D, with a smaller footprint. Model D is two meters tall. In Asia, that’s too overwhelming for a lot of people. So, we wanted to do something that was more compact, and I also wanted to make a speaker that would really have a tremendous amount of headroom. Maybe you don’t need to play loud, but it is always nice if you have some great music that you turn it up. You can do that with the model B. Anyway, I was travelling back from Korea and that was about a 24h trip. I was thinking and thinking how we can make something that is smaller, less expensive but at least has the same impact as a Model D. We had to continue with the dipole principal. The dipole is wonderful because you don’t need a particular space. Especially now, since we have RoomPerfect technology. I thought let me try to work out a very efficient way of packing the driver’s baffle. That became kind of a zig-zag pattern for the woofer system; three woofers facing forward and three woofers facing backwards. They are each 34 cm wide, but the speaker is only 60cm. We had to overlap the drivers, reverse the face of the rear ones and carefully design the surrounding of the woofers. We actually pressure loaded them quite a bit. This means that we kind of squished the sound off from the baffle structure in a different way that we did with the Model D. The net result is that we get about 70 dB more headroom than the Model D. This is very significant, because headroom really means that there is pressure in the room. By reversing the woofers, we also reduced the second order harmonic distortion. 

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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What you will realize when you listen to the Model B is that -compared to other speakers- it has this ability to do the low frequencies. You can’t hear them, but you feel them. Most speakers have quite a bit of second order harmonic distortion. If you put in 20 Hz, you get a lot of 40 Hz out also maybe one percent. But your ear sensitivity is a lot greater at 40 Hz than at 20 Hz; maybe 20 dB. This is like equalizing the perceived level. Even with very good speakers you may reproduce the 20 Hz, but you’re actually listening to 40 Hz. That’s the overtone, that’s the second order harmonics. You never get to experience the feeling of the very low frequencies without so much sound. That is a really nice feeling you know. It’s like being in a big church where you barely hear the organ, but you feel it. That is what you can experience with the Model B. In terms of design it’s a very efficient design. Its format appeals to a lot of people so, the product sold a lot better than our Model D. During that long trip back, I was not sleeping at all. I was designing the whole mechanic construction. When I got back to Denmark, I had the complete drawings ready to send out for manufactoring. Everything was designed and I came back and said make this now. We got all the parts made and off course there where tiny small mistakes. When we put it together, put the amps on, did the filtering … even right out of the box the first time we listened to it, it sounded fantastic. It took maybe one hour and then it already sounded better than anything we ever heard … because of the basic principal is so good; the dipole.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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Efficiency and headroom

We have the very good drivers from the Model D that we’ve been using. We now exactly know how to apply the DSP’s. The Model B was fabulous from the first listen. Then we had to streamline the design a little bit. That took another few months. From that moment, we’ve put it in production. It has been very successful since then. The fully digital amps and all our other tools make life easy for us. What we have seen with the Model B is that it’s probably the most flexible speaker we ever had. In a room like this it would work perfectly. Last week I was in Norway in a room that had a reverb time about 8 seconds. That was horrible, but the Model B sounded wonderful. After applying RoomPerfect it sounded just fantastic. It’s a super flexible speaker, of course it’s expensive to make. We make it out of 42 mm thick aluminum. We actually use thicker billets of aluminum and we cut it to for42 mm for the baffles. We use about 450 Kg of aluminum for each speaker before we do all the machining. So, it’s made like all the other Steinway speakers; all aluminum and extremely stiff. There are absolutely no resonances in the system what-so-ever. It’s very efficient; the midrange is about 95 dB and the tweeter is 96 dB. We have an enormous amount of headroom. We put about 4 x 600 Watts into each speaker. In Steinway terminology; Model B stands for big one and Model D stands for damn big one. The thing that takes stand out is the physical impact of the bass. Because it’s so fast you have more apparent level without the sound resonating or being bass heavy. That’s really what people appreciate. It gives the same kind of feeling with the music that you get in a real-life concert. A lot of high end systems are really too skinny in the bass. If you go to a concert hall, you’re always surprised how warm it sounds. There are not so much mid- and high frequencies, there is not a lot of tingling at the high frequencies. When you listen to a hi-fi system, they’re skinny in the bass and there’s not enough body. Model B can offer you that body without giving you a bloated sound. That really gets to you. When you think about headphones, they are really good with the bass. Compared to the Model B they are nothing. You hear more bass details from the Model B then you do with a pair of headphones. That’s amazing considered that Model B is in the room with live acoustics. You will understand the bass much more when you listen to the Model B and you’ll get the physical impact. The dipole principal is good because you have less total radiation of energy into the room versus the SPL (sound pressure level) in your listening position. Dipoles radiate the most to the front and the back and very little to the side. You do get a reflection from the backside of the speaker from the wall behind. Because we make the speaker with the same frequency response going forward and backwards the reflection sounds really nice. They sound like reflections from a musical experience. What’s interesting is that from a normal speaker you get a lot of reflections from the rear wall. Those reflections don’t sound good because when you listen to the speaker from the rear side, that sound is hiding the wall behind the speaker. It’s coming back to you and that’s not a good sound. Whatever is reflected from the Model B or any good design dipole has the same character as the direct sound. Therefore it’s not detrimental to the perceived quality.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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72 Kg of woofers per speaker

We cross at 350 Hz but the woofers themselves are super light, they have a very soft voice coil and very deep magnet cap. The advances of that is that when they move, they do not modulate the overtones. A typical woofer has a short magnet cap and a long voice coil. As soon as they start to move and when they’re not in the center of the cap you lose power. That’s why when you listen to heavy bass like that we’ve listen to before, together with a male voice, there is no modulation of the voice. It almost sounds like the voice is reproduced by one speaker system and the bass is reproduced by another. That is because we don’t have this power factor modulation in the woofers. We have so much cone area in the woofers that when we play in the weekend, we really have a physical experience. They don’t move a lot. Our woofers are designed to move quickly, they are not designed to have a low resonance frequency. If you tap the woofer very fast, there is no tone to the woofer. We are not using a low resonance frequency to do the low frequencies. So, it’s super-fast. We control the frequency response with the DSP and with that we do something that start’s and stops quickly. Other speakers often have like an overshoot in the bass. All of a sudden, the bass runs out. In many cases that is because the moving mass in the cone is high and then you put something in motion that won’t stop again. We don’t have that issue with this kind of woofer design. This woofer was originally designed for the Model D and we are still using the same in the Model B now. Each of the woofers weights 12 Kg. We have 72 Kg of woofers in each speaker. That’s interesting. The midrange is 5,25 inch and has a big and powerful neodymium magnet. The midrange is very efficient. The efficiency of the mid- and high speakers is close to that of a horn speaker, without any of the issues you can have with horn speakers. So, you still have the very, very opened balanced sound. We use four amplifier channels for each Model B. Our fully digital amplifiers have super sophisticated power supplies. When you push a lot of energy into the woofers, it does not affect the other channels. The power supply has a tremendous signal to noise ratio. The noise floor is -137 dB. There is no ripple in the power supply, even when you push a lot of energy into the woofers. It does not affect the midrange or the tweeter at all. If you take a normal system and apply bi-amping -which can be a very good thing-, than maybe one of the amplifiers is drawing so much current from the grid that the other amplifier sees the voltage going up and down. That will make the sound go up and down. Then you have this unsteady sense with the music, you don’t have total stability at the mid- and high frequencies. With our typical driver design can offer a tremendous amount of headroom.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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I’m so proud that we can make this

I can say that I played in a lot of different places in Singapore, China, in Korea and so on. In every place that I’ve heard the system, also at Hi-Fi Corner… in every place I heard the Model B, I thought I’ve never heard it sound better. Because you get in the grove with this sound and you love it more and more. I’m proud that we can make this you know. I did the cosmetic design and the basic concept. I have so many clever people working for me that are dedicated to improve quality all the time. Our software and RoomPerfect … everything is so well designed. We applied RoomPerfect on over thousands of channels. We never ever had a fault in RoomPerfect, never ever. We design the multichannel products, multichannel processors. We are the only high end company that designed a complete system in house, including the multichannel processor. Nobody else is doing that these days. I have guys that are so dedicated to the quality and the performance of the products. It’s a lot of work.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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Slower speed of sound offers us acoustics

We have a tremendous amount of ability with our hearing. The ear-brain combination is much more sophisticated in many ways then our eyes. You can see a movie with thirty frames per second and you think it’s continuous movement, It’s not. It only takes thirty frames per second to fool you into believing that you’re watching a movie. When you’re actually watching a picture show with different pictures all the time. The ear has a much better ability to discern time. The ear is 10.000 times faster than the eyes. But sound is 900.000 times slower than light, that is what’s giving us acoustics. If light and sound had the same speed, there would be no acoustics. That is one of the things that make it so interesting because you have the acoustics from the venue, you have the acoustics from your reproduction system, from your speakers, you have disperson characteristics and so on. Designing a speaker system and the associated digital system for room correction is a hugely complex process. Our ears our so damn good also in dynamic range; 120 dB easy. Our eyes have a dynamic range of 50 dB. If our eyes had the same dynamic range as our ears it would never be dark.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

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It keeps getting better…

We are never going to be finished. In another few years there’s going to be something that is much better, because our ability to hear is fantastic. Simply fantastic. That is also why I think it’s such a bloody waste that young people nowadays never get to experience really good sound. The way we process sounds in our brain is tremendous. You have 3D, depth, tonality, pitch you have everything. It’s proven that when you listen to some really good music, you use much more of your brain than when you watch a movie. I think it’s like criminal, kids that grow up listening to a mobile phone and lousy headphones. It’s kind of criminal I think, because they will have less brain development. That’s maybe a provocative statement, but I believe it to be true. It’s often so that brilliant people are good musicians. The guy who invented our amplifier technology is a brilliant, super brilliant mathematician and also a very good musician. I don’t know what came first, maybe he would not have been so good at math if he hadn’t played the cello. We’re probably going do something that’s even better. There is one thing I can say that is really good in our systems; they are software upgradable. When we introduced Model B one and a half year ago, we had slightly different algorithms to drive the speakers. When you update your P100 that drives the Model B, it sounds better than it did months ago. It’s downloadable from the internet so that’s a huge advantage. Everything that we can do with the voicing and so on is a huge advantage. Model D sounds a lot better than it did then years ago and it didn’t cost the customers anything. Because every time I’m out in a new venue and listen to the Model B and Model D, I take small notes. A few months later we put it in the software, when I’m 100% sure. That’s why I go to a lot of our end users. I listen to the systems in their home’s and make my observations of how RoomPerfect interacts with the system and so on.

Peter Lyngdorf – Founder Steinway Lyngdorf

Steinway Lyngdorf Model B details