Friday, July 24, 2015

Audio Nirvana Speakers…Slam!

I listened to these at a friend's house, Audio Nirvana speakers (12 or 15) in large and tall cabinets, with the speakers just above ear level IIRC.

It was in many ways very impressive sound, dynamic, full of slam, powerful and deep bass, clear midrange and highs, excellent left to right imaging, stable but not too much pinpoint.  He said he was unimpressed by other speakers he had heard, often very expensive, in audiophile's homes.  I sympathized with that, and in some parameters (dynamics and slam, especially) I have only heard megabuck systems at audiophile shows, like the largest MBL demonstration, that actually bettered what he could do.  Even with all my complicated and intentially overwideband system, I actually can't quite do slam as well, maybe, except perhaps if you are sitting in a corner instead of the sweet spot...

But I wouldn't say it was the least colored sound, it had clear colorations, a slightly exaggerated mid bass, elevated mid highs, obviously absent highest highs.  They always say things like "most people can't hear above 15,000 Hz anyway" but it seems to me, if it's missing, I can sense that somehow.  Though I couldn't name any instrument or anything that was obviously missing except for possibly noise anyway.  The other colorations seemed apparent but not particularly annoying either.  Possibly the worst aspects of this speaker could be fixed with digital EQ, making it truly reference, save for the supra 15 kHz…And there, supra 15kHz super tweeters might do the trick, without much messing the actual imaging.  Though once we get into all these further approximations of the needed changes, we would likely end up with…less slam.  The apparent missing high frequencies could also probably be adjusted with speaker aiming (beam that center right at the ears) and replacing damping used in the room with dispersion.  Much of what I was hearing as missing highs might not have actually been the speaker limitations.

Distortion, I don't know, he was playing pretty loudly in a small room, and there didn't appear to be anything like rising distortion near clipping.

But there was not much depth, and I think that was the ultimate sign of a cone speaker distortion type*…which should be expected!  The dynamic speaker is driven from the near center, and the propagation of sound through the speaker cone is dependent on frequency.  And the propagation through the speaker cone creates delayed radiation of that frequency for as long as it takes to travel through the speaker cone to it's ultimate point.  It's very fast in a relatively stiff cone (compared to air, say) but not instantaneous.  So there is an irreducible amount of time-smearing, and there may be some distortion from traveling through the cone also.

(*other explanations are possible, say related to room acoustics and speaker placement.)

There is one single cone (or mostly single cone) speaker which gets around these issues, and that's the Walsh driver, where the contour of the cone exactly matches the delay for time alignment.  And it also does it with omnidirectionality.

Actually, a relatively flat and stiff but still contoured cone like the Audio Nirvana may already do that same sort of thing to a considerable extent.  If we want to understand just this angle, we have to do the kinds of measurements few people bother to publish.  The sound suggests good but not quite perfect.

Anyway, electrostatics have their limitations too, which may be more bothersome to many who like slam.  These can be overcome in a reference system, like the one I'm still working on, with additional time aligned drivers for deep base, super highs, and so on.  Without those complicated fixes, whether one prefers electrostatics or single cone Audio Nirvana is a matter of choice, neither is perfect really.

So the Audio Nirvana approach makes a truly excellent Value system (by Audiophile standards of Value…non-audiophiles would think you were already spending enough for Reference).  But it may not offer as much potential for improvement as a system based on electrostatic panels plus additional drivers like mine.  I imagine that Electrostat loving friends of mine might be horrified at the idea their speakers are lacking anything, but I think it's a mainstream perception anyway that you get maximum slam with a dynamic loudspeaker system.  People like me try to get the best of both, by mixing both.

It's kind of a miracle that they've made single dynamic drivers these good now.  Most people would not think it possible.  I didn't.

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