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Basics of High End Audio

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December 17th Written by 

Or - How to get great sound while avoiding the technology blackhole.

The world of high end audio is a very murky place for many interested in music and high performance home entertainment systems. Unlike video where a shopper can clearly see differences in performance between different sets, high end audio forces a person to evaluate performance in a much more complicated way. Volume levels, source components, amplifiers, cables - you name it - there are a huge number of variables. How do you know what you are really listening to? Not only that, competing technologies and formats and equipment priced at astonishing levels make you wonder if a reasonable choice is possible at all. 

When you buy a TV, what you see in the store is just about what you will get in your home once the set or projector is properly calibrated. With audio, all of the components are different and your room is certainly not the demo room. 

Very experienced audiophiles can pick their way through these issues. But how does the inexperienced audio shopper with visions of the enjoying real music or life-like movies in the home make the right series of choices? How can Newform Research help in delivering a dynamite system for less than stupid money? And without tearing the house apart? 

Newform makes a unique line of new technology loudspeakers which will produce superb sound quality in most average rooms. The investment in electronics to drive our loudspeakers can be quite small and still achieve excellent results. Having said that, the better the source components are, the better the sound will be. There is a price ceiling however beyond which there is probably no acoustic benefit. Above $10,000 in electronics, "prestige" and flim flam are the items being purchased. Newform Research Ribbon loudspeakers will not restrict the performance of your system. See our "You Can't Go Wrong" page for ideas on systems and various levels of packages. 

Are Ribbon loudspeakers a valid and current design approach? Over the past 30 years the most experienced audiophiles and music lovers have coveted Ribbon and electrostatic loudspeakers as the first choice for their dream systems. Real world considerations may force compromising on conventional dome/box loudspeakers but once knowledgeable audiophiles have heard a good planar loudspeaker, they have been dissatisfied with anything else. 

Transparency, detail and you-are-there soundstaging are the principal qualities that have separated planars from conventional speakers. The clean sheet Ribbon technology from Newform delivers the best sound qualities of the finest planars in room friendly systems that can be driven by very modest electronics. Our wide dispersion columnar radiation pattern is more likely to deliver superb sound in more normal rooms, for more people, than large dipoles (sound comes out the front and rear), horn loudspeakers or dome tweeter systems. Our Ribbons have excellent room coverage but minimize fatiguing reflections from the floor and ceiling so the soundstage stays three dimensional and clearly focused. 

Many higher end loudspeaker manufacturers are moving to small Ribbon tweeters. These are certainly an advance over their past designs but with their short heights, high crossovers points and baffle mounting, they fail to utilize a great deal of the potential realized in Newforms large, free standing Ribbon systems. 

Our new Coaxial Ribbon LineSource designs come in at higher price levels than we have occupied before but they 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 $15,000 total system cost, it is possible to atain ultra system performance. 


Your room must accommodate high quality loudspeakers and a reasonably favourable setup involving both the loudspeaker placement and the listening position. This typically means a room 10' x 14' or better. For dedicated rooms, you can start out slightly smaller. 

You have to have a system budget of $2500 plus. A lot of money to the uninitiated but a laughably small amount for the jaded audiophile. However, a pair of R630s or LineSource Monitors, with a $200 DVD player and a modest receiver (say Panasonic XR57 for $400) will deliver very, very decent sound in a reasonable room. Such has been the progress in the electronics world in recent years. 

You have to have a kernel of real commitment. No matter how much you spend, or how perfect your room is, you will have to plan a little bit and do some experimentation before any system can start operating near its potential. We will work with you on the planning and be there to offer suggestions on optimizing your system.

You don't have to bleed for fine music in the home. Some quiet reflection plus several minutes on the phone with our designer can quickly lead to the development of a simple and successful strategy. 

Once you realize what is substance and what is smoke, achieving great sound on a reasonable budget is very easy. Tearing yourself away from the music then becomes the difficult part. 

Read 7218 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 16:09
Published in New to High End Audio?