Newform R645 Ribbon hybrid.
This is a somewhat skewed commentary on the speaker, conditioned by the desire to directly evaluate it comparatively with Apogees. A rather tough bar to set for a hybrid ribbon/cone, Centaurs and Slant models notwithstanding.
The system is somewhat unusual, with nearly completely separate front end chains for analogue and digital. The owner is very much a vinyl buff, and is generally sufficiently unimpressed with CD to be unwilling to invest in it as a medium (a point of view that I certainly sympathize and empathize with, even though I am guilty of the compromise of mostly listening to CD now). CD is a portable battery powered unit, going into a parasound pre-amp, and thence to an Audio Synthesis Desire amp. Analogue sources were either Pink Triangle/Linn Ittok/Grado or Oracle/SME IV/Grado Reference, into Audio Synthesis Phono stage and Passion passive controller. Interconnects and cable were all Audio Synthesis, silver conductor. And yes, I do agree that there is a bizarre mismatch between the digital and analogue capabilities of this setup - it reflects the owners priorities, and having heard it, I can only agree with him. There is an unusual (dare I say obsessive?) emphasis on vibration damping and control; everything rests on various Bright Star products, pneumatic isolation is used for the amplifier and some components, and even power cables are lovingly supported by vibration-absorbing/attenuation material. I can attest to a stunning purity of reproduction as a result of all of this: the effort is not wasted.
The speakers are set up facing into a normal sized (about 12' x 22') room, with their backs to a very wide opening into a quite large (about 16' x 16') space. The floor is fully carpeted. There is a very artfully integrated subwoofer in use (I never detected it's presence as a sound source).
I used a few specific discs selected to test the efficacy of the cone-ribbon combination:
Fiona Apple, "When the Pawn", Track 7 "Fast as you can". Bass is recorded broadband and very strong, will cause immediate and obvious bloat and masking of midrange if anything is amiss with the room or bass response of the speaker. The voice is close miked; proximity effect gives it tremendous body in the lower mids, crossover oddities will be exposed. It is also mastered at or near 0dBFS; it really drives a "wall of sound". Joni Mitchell, "Both sides now" (the new one), Track 12 "Both sides now". Boxes make the bass monotonic. Ribbons don't. Al DiMeola, "Kiss my axe", Track 2 "The embrace". LF transients that should couple completely to the room, with very alarming intensity and a relatively fast decay. Bloat will result from problems in response. Also, stunning dynamics.
Bach, Brandenburg Concertos, Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood (L'oiseau-Lyre). The period instruments have very diverse tone, individual instruments should be apparent in the ensemble.
Pat Metheny Group, "Quartet", Track 7, "Dismantling utopia". Soundstage, percussion tone (Great disc to show off ribbons, by the way).
A number of characteristics of the Newforms are immediately apparent:
Stunning. All traces of coloration in the ribbon disappeared (on the admittedly different material) and vertical image shift at crossover was not apparent. I could find nothing to fault with the sound of these speakers with the all passive analogue front end. They are very, very good. Not being intimately familiar with the material on vinyl, this is not as definitive as I would like, but they really sounded marvellous. The only remaining comparative comment is the one relating to texture and detail in the bass, which though improved, was still not as amazingly coherent as the apogee ribbon woofer, nor was the transition quite as seamless.
What does it mean? The Newform is a real over-achiever; At it's list price of just over $2,000 in 2001, it is being compared with speakers that are much more expensive used, 10 years old. Not bad at all. The ribbon is a spectacular driver, certainly the equal of the big Apogee MRT. The bass enclosure is cleverly engineered and artfully crossed over, never sounding slow or muffled. As a hybrid, it sounds honestly much better than my (hazy) recollection of brief auditions of the Slant 6 and 8. From the mid-range up, it can play happily in Apogee territory, and gives up only bass texture, weight and resolution to the big panels. (and the afore-mentioned coloration: it is not apparent all the time, wasn't apparent with the analogue front end, but I don't know if that means it is CD related).
I would love to hear the driver (which is available separately) mated to a dipole dynamic cone bass like the Linkwitz Phoenix; that would be an interesting experiment (any takers?). Ribbons do rule, indeed!
HOME | PRODUCTS | FEEDBACK | NEW TO HIGH END AUDIO? | EXPERT ADVICE | PURCHASING | COMPANY | CONTACT
© 2000 - 2005 Newform Research
Site by: VY Web Design