Picking the Right Loudspeaker

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November 21st Written by 

GETTING ALL THE PARTS TO SING IN UNISON

Selecting the loudspeaker best suited for your system, your room and your ears is the most difficult and the most critical part of building a first class audio system.

ELECTRONICS AND AMPLIFIERS

The choice of amplifiers is completely open ended since Newform Ribbons represent such a neutral and benign load. Our loudspeaker systems are being driven by everything from home made 7 ½ watt 300B tube amplifiers to 500w mega $ monoblocks. In the end, your favourite amp will be able to deliver its best performance with our loudspeakers so there are few, if any, restrictions in the choice of an amplifier. 

The questions are volume levels and sound quality. Volume level is very easy to deal with as it is a function of room size, owner preference and speaker sensitivity. To simplify matters, most speakers in most rooms can be driven to very high levels by amps with 100 watts per channel. If a powered subwoofer is being used, this can fall to 60 w/ch. Many people will be very happy with levels achieved by far less than 100w. 

However, more power is always better as it allows the amplifier to operate with more headroom and less stress. The audible benefits are reduced listening fatigue and greater transparency, resulting in more ease and naturalness to the music. Also, as new digital formats deliver greater resolution and greater dynamic range, the benefits of higher power will be more pronounced. 

Newform Ribbon speakers have more than enough dynamic range for any domestic situation. They will play very loudly and very cleanly so select your amplifier based on the volume levels you are looking to achieve. The Ribbons will cleanly deliver whatever they are fed. Note that resolution at low levels is exceptional with Newform Ribbons so don't misunderstand the above as a requirement that a huge amp or high levels is necessary for fine musical performance. You don't have to let your pores do the listening although it certainly is fun sometimes. 

The amplifier sections of surround sound receivers are improving dramatically and although separates still achieve the highest quality sound, the gap is not as great as it once was. The all-digital chain eliminates much of this differential and may, in fact, completely alter the face of home entertainment in the next several years. 

It is still basically true that the more you pay for an amplifier, the better the sound quality is likely to be. That is, up to a point. In 2013, once you spend over $2,000, improvements are very, very small. Given the advances in design and the development of the digital chain, that $2,000 mark will almost certainly fall dramatically.  For comparison, Onkyo receivers in the $1000 range can deliver superb sound when their room correction capabilities are employed.   This was very clearly demonstrated in our rooms at the Axpona 2013 Chicago Audio Show where our sub $10,000 system held up extremely well against other systems at the show well into 6 figures.

Now that we are well into the digital domain, room correction has come of age.  It is able to offer very balanced room response and cost you nothing in transparency or dynamics.  This is a big change and a pure benefit.

As well, there are a great many amplifiers selling for more than $4000 which do not sound as good as the lowly, but incredibly advanced receivers available for less than $1000. Bel Canto and Spectron take their own paths of digital amplifier design but both deliver superb results. 

Newform Research Ribbon loudspeakers fall into the category of loudspeakers which are very easy for any modern amplifier and most tube amps to drive so the choice of amplifier can be made on the basis of its inherent sound quality and its power output capability. The question "Which amp works best with your loudspeakers?" simply does not apply. The relevant question is "What amplifier do you like best?".

THE ROOM IS A HUGE FACTOR

Very few people own homes with ideal sound rooms. Flexibility is important. Experimentation is critical. See the room-acoustics section for more detail but basically when looking to marry a loudspeaker to your room, here are a few basic things to consider. 

Room size, required volume levels, placement options, decor (you are on your own on this issue), listening height, listening distance and, oh yes, sound quality. 

Like any marriage, the room can be improved but it can't be fundamentally changed so the loudspeaker must be selected to suit it, not the other way around. Newform speakers are easier to place and setup than many high end speakers but as always, there will be one best location which may or may not be convenient for the other uses of the room. Once you know what the sonic issues are of different setups, you can decide what compromises need to be made so you can live with the speakers when they are not playing. 

Obviously a dedicated room will offer greater potential but most rooms can be made to sound very good with some well though out and subtle adjustments.

THE CHOICE

In the past we have started comparing loudspeakers from our bottom model up. Now, with the R645v3 a runaway audio classic suitable for most rooms, it is best to start with it and discuss other options as priorities vary from the mainstream. 

The R645v3 will light up most large listening rooms with a good 100w amplifier. For a first class home theatre system, a subwoofer will be ultimately be required but for music, the 645 possesses substantial low bass capability combined with excellent pitch definition. The 645 is the best loudspeaker we currently make and is slightly more transparent that the 630 with deeper bass extension and greater dynamics. 

It is also taller (76" vs 61") so people who like to move around the room while listening lose no highs as their ear move above the 61" plane of the 630s. The listener has to be over 6' 8" to experience reduced highs with the 645. 

The R645v3 can work extremely well in most rooms but in decidedly small rooms (less than 10' x 15'), the R630 should be the choice.  For soundstage depth, the further out the speakers are the better generally but in some rooms, they simply must be put near the front wall. 

Centre channels are a bad idea which may be necessary for some people in some rooms on certain types of software. Don't feel you have to get one immediately, as it can always be added. Optimize your soundstage first before you make a decision to try one. 

Surrounds can be upgraded later. The ideal is to have speakers identical to the mains but this is impractical unless the room is over 20 long. Small Ribbons can provide the same transparency and since you will certainly be sitting, vertical coverage will not be an issue. Our LineSource Monitor will serve extremely well as a studio monitor, surround speaker and centre channel. 

Our new Coaxial Ribbon LineSource designs offer significant improvements in both fidelity and practicality over most loudspeakers, regardless of price- conventional or planar - in most listening rooms. They are just as electronics friendly as our other speakers and thus, for under $15,000 total system cost, it is possible to attain ultra system performance.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG

Due to their half cylindrical dispersion pattern (wide horizontal monopole dispersion with limited vertical radiation) interface or "hook up" better with normal rooms than most other loudspeakers because they limit sound degrading reflections off the ceiling and floor. BUT there are some conditions in which Newforms are simply the wrong choice. 

If the room has slanted side walls which have a "knee" less than 5' from the floor, the odd reflections will make it almost impossible for a good soundstage to be achieved. Dipoles can work well here so look in that direction. 

If you like to listen critically lying on the couch or sitting on the floor which places your ears well below the level of the Ribbon, Newforms are not for you. The listening head must be in the radiation strata of the Ribbon for high performance listening. Look at a dome system or our LineSource Reference with full height Ribbons. 

If you have an extremely highly damped listening room, say a library with books floor to ceiling on all 4 walls, you will have a problem with Newform Ribbons because sidewall reflections will be killed completely as will the reflection off wall behind the speakers, between the speakers. Very narrow dispersion speakers might be the best choice here. Horns or large panel electrostatics. 

Too small a room. Trying to shoehorn an R645v3 into a room smaller than 10' x 14' or an R630 into 8' x 12' is probably not going to work well. Dedicated rooms where extensive tuning can be done can work or rooms where there are large openings present can work but once the size is this small, you have to be very careful. Try LineSource Monitors. 

Near field listening. Some people either by preference or by the necessity of a small room listen in the near field (ie) closer than 5 feet. This will work for very few people as it takes some distance (6' plus and hopefully 8 to 10') for the waves from the Ribbon and midbass drivers to fully resolve themselves. The smaller the Ribbon the closer critical listening is possible.

TYPICAL COMPROMISE

In the real world, life interferes with the perfect reproduction of music in most homes. Just because there are compromises doesn't mean you can't achieve great results. 

Large TV or cabinet system in between the speakers.

Get the speakers as far out ahead of the plane of the TV screen as possible.

One open side on the room.

Maybe some toe-in is necessary on the open side.

Try some damping on the wall on the other side to balance the reflected waves.

Firing across the room as opposed to down the length.

Make sure you have some damping on the wall behind the listening position to kill the strong rear reflections.

Close to walls.

Maybe a little bit of toe-in or light damping on the walls.

Odd shape.

There can be real opportunities with different shaped rooms. arches can be huge assets.  Call us.

Slanted Side Walls.  Forget it, call a dipole manufacturer.

Read 5668 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 18:14
Published in Buying Guide