Digital Wave

The next quantum leap in fidelity is now on the horizon. Make yourself familiar with the concept of the direct digital chain. You are going to be hearing a lot about it. In the digital realm, analog middlemen are going to be eliminated to the great benefit of fidelity. There are three levels of audio system sophistication of interest to anyone reading this. 

The first level involves a largely analog signal path which either originates as analog in a turntable or as digital in a CD player and is converted (A to D) to an analog signal. It then goes through interconnects to the pre-amp, is processed and passed through interconnects to the amp where the signal goes through 2 to 4 gain stages and feedback loops emerging as a power signal passing through speaker cables and ends up in the loudspeakers where it passes through passive crossovers consisting of large inductors, capacitors and resistors. A higher level system uses bi-amping and electronic crossovers to replace the passive crossovers for distinctly superior results. 

The third level, and the one that offers a quantum leap in fidelity is now starting to gel. It will take a digital signal right to the loudspeakers where it will be equalized and crossed over in the digital domain and then amplified in digital amplifiers, one for each transducer. The amp output will then travel between 10 and 20 inches along internal speaker wire until it reaches the actual loudspeaker driver. 

In short, no losses, no distortions until the signal is turned into analog power within the digital amp. The digital amp, itself serving as the D to A converter will turn the signal into speaker driving current in a single gain stage as opposed to 2 to 4 gain stages in conventional amps. There are no negative feedback loops. 

The following components and their noise, distortion and phase anomalies are thereby eliminated from the audio signal path: 

D to A converters pre-amps at least 2 sets of interconnects speaker cables passive or active crossovers 1 to 3 amplifier gain stages feed back loops. 

There is a vast improvement in the noise floor and in phase coherency. How important is this? In our own listening sessions and in discussions with others in the industry, it became very clear that the sound improvement is much greater than that achieved by going from 44kHz/16 bit CD to either DVD Audio or SACD. The higher resolution formats are distinctly better but you need a good system, well set up, to really appreciate the improvement. 

The direct digital chain will knock the socks off any listener, experienced or novice (actually, if you compare the direct digital chain with the factory direct concept, there are quite a few similarities). Effective, seamless room equalization may not arrive at the same time as the rest of the digital chain but it is coming as well. 

Upgrading Newform loudspeakers when the time comes will be straight forward and we plan to offer kits for an easy conversion. E-mail for details. A lot of heavy industry types are working on this so look for it to become commonplace in 2 to 3 years. 

The bottom line is, don't spend a great deal of money on amplifiers or pre-amps.


h5 Spectron  

TacT Audio 




Moore's Law Catches up with High Fidelity Audio 


Benefits of Front Projectors


Many of the first video enthusiasts came from the ranks of audiophiles. Equipment and performance driven they expanded their fascination of music reproduction to include the whole home entertainment spectrum. This meant taking a TV and plunking it down in between their carefully placed hifi loudspeakers. 

Of course, it must be noted that many budding videophiles were sufficiently wellheeled to allow them to have a dedicated room for both music and home theater. They didn't even try to achieve great sound in their home theater room because the equipment of the day and the soundtracks were way, way below audiophile standards. 

That part at least has changed. Although still variable, many movie soundtracks now boast excellent acoustics and dare I say it, true hifi sound. And the equipment is now fully on a par with the best from the music 2 channel world. Except, perhaps, a tube surround sound processor is not available. (That's an audiophile joke.) 

Back to dropping a big TV into a carefully tuned music system. In a word: disaster. The soundstage becomes much more two dimensional and both horizontal and depth focus significantly degrade. Also, timbre is slightly to moderately changed. There is no good news here except that when the TV was on it provided enough of a distraction to make the flaws less noticeable. 

Why is a TV an acoustic nightmare? A tube or rear projection TV from an acoustic point of view is a large box consisting of reflective and resonating panels and sharp corners. Instead of the generous space in which the speakers were placed with a wall well behind them, they find themselves roughly on the same plane with this large reflective surface. Effectively now each speaker is in a bit of an alcove. The typical rear projection TV with room for its cabling in the rear, effectively moves the wall forward 2 ½ to 3 feet. That is a big loss of space. Anyone still living with a large TV should place the speakers as far ahead of the plane of the TV as possible. 

Where once the sound radiated out from the speakers in a an uninterrupted hemispheric pattern, the side wave now encounters the TV chassis and reflects both back towards the speaker and forward toward the listener. These delayed waves arrive shortly after the main direct wave from the speaker. This multiple arrival time smears the soundstage focus. 

Because the reflective surfaces of the TV are not 100% solid, they are more reflective for some frequencies than for others. Thin plastic, glass and wood panels are less of an obstacle to low frequencies than they are to high frequencies so they reflect more highs than they do lows. Hence there is a slight tonal imbalance introduced as well. 

Those same thin panels move with the sound that hits them and once moving don't stop once the music does. They now have a (short) life of their own. Tap on any panel of your TV and listen to it's individual sound. This tone is playing (excited by the soundwaves from your main speakers, sub etc.) when your sound system is on and each panel speaks with a different voice. A low level cacophony. TVs are simply not designed with any thought of acoustic performance. 

The British picked up on this early which is why, in a high end British audio shop, there was only one pair of speakers in the room at any one time. If you wanted to listen to another pair, the first were removed and the second brought in. This eliminated the effects of having a set of large boxes upsetting the sound from the working speakers. A large screen RPTV is like having several sets of large speakers at the front of the room. 

The effects are not subtle once you have tried it with and without and you'll be aware the situation is less than ideal until you get rid of the problem. With our own Ribbons, which extend above the top of most RPTVs, standing up will reveal a tremendous depth of soundstage and openness while sitting down the sound stage flattens out and the sound closes up. Very distinct and completely unavoidable even with damping on the sides of the TV cabinet to somewhat reduce the effect. 

Front projectors change all of this. Essentially, they and the screens they project onto are acoustically invisible and return the room to it's state before the arrival of the 3 cubic meters of living surfaces which is a rear projection TV. They give the speakers space and act much the same as the wall behind them. If video screen material is acoustically reflective, it must be at a vanishing level and if the screens resonate (I suppose everything does at some point) it must be imperceptible and probably un-measurable. Video screens suspended several inches off the wall simply get out of the way of the proper and natural sound propagation. 

The bottom line is that front projectors give you your music back. We have long maintained that in the future a great music system will be a great home theater system with the video switched off. Despite an acoustically rough start for home theater, front projectors have now made that ideal an attainable reality for the great majority of music and video enthusiasts.


Changing Face



It may seem that music is being left behind in the rush to cram every conceivable piece of electronic gear, reproducing every format the corporate marketing wizards can conjure up into the "home entertainment room". Certainly music and fidelity have been casualties in the early days of home theater. 

However, the clear trend is back to superb music. This may be happening more by accident than by design but over the next few years, the reproduction of music in the home will be dramatically enhanced by a number of technical advances. 

Number one is the digital chain (link). This is here now in the form of the Tact amps and preamps with DSP crossover and room correction. In combination with excellent drivers and the correct radiation pattern, (digital technology won't correct for everything!) a huge step forward in fidelity is guaranteed for any system. Being in the digital domain, prices can only go down and performance can only go up. With the Tact's superb current level of performance, it is safe to say that although prices will go down dramatically with digital advances, performance will increase in only modest increments. 

Newform had wanted to produce our own system by this time but the delays at the major chip companies plus the arrival of the OEM/DSP crossover capability in the Tact amplifiers has allowed us to go digital now with a level of sophistication we could not have achieved ourselves.  Ditto Onkyo and Emotiva.

The second major breakthrough is the arrival of affordable, high performance front projectors. Many great hifi systems have had their musical potential severely reduced by the addition of large rear projection TVs in between the main loudspeakers. Read "The Acoustic Advantages of Front Projectors" for a more detailed discussion but front projectors restore the acoustics of a hifi only room to pre-RPTV levels. You can now have both superb music reproduction and great video capability in one, no-compromise, system. Upgrade your video capability and get your music back for free. 

Looking at these small, light video projectors, one really has to wonder just what they are going to cost when the factories really crank up production. Ditto digital amps and processors. Future cost may not be precisely definable but the trend is certainly clear. Advances in many areas are converging to make the reproduction of music in the home better, easier and cheaper. High fidelity strikes back! 

Not to be forgotten is the music itself. While media focus has been on the new formats, SACD and DVD audio, the lowly CD has come a long way as well. Recording techniques are improving rapidly and so is our understanding of how to get the most out of the 16 bit, 44kHz format. Up sampling, time correction and buffering are all producing large improvements in sound quality to the point where the higher resolution formats may almost be caught from behind. Not quite maybe but the best CD material will raise a light sweat on the forehead of any of the new formats.


Our buying advice has really not changed in the past 5 years. Due to the imminent arrival of the digital chain, don't spend more than you need to on conventional technology. Since the imminent has actually arrived in the form of the Tact system and affordable front projectors, continue to pick your spots with an eye to the future when buying. It is now possible to clearly see the trend of future developments in both audio and home theater. 

You can take your time and get it right because technology is driving the changes in high fidelity in the right direction. Delays in decision making will result in better available choices when you do decide to commit. Just like buying a computer. By the time you decide to get down off the fence and do something, a faster model will pass you before you can turn the key in the ignition.


Audio Economics 101

The factory direct business model is a double edged sword. On one hand, there are strong advantages to selling direct to the final customer. At least one middleman (the dealer) is eliminated. This is beneficial from both cost and communication standpoints. 

On the other hand, it takes more work by the customer to make such a purchase. More research, more discussion and more thought. In most cases customers won't actually see (or hear) what they are buying until it arrives at their door. And oh yes, more uncertainty! 

What are the numbers behind the two methods? 

In typical consumer electronics retail distribution the cost to manufacture the product is usually between 1/5 and 1/8 the retail list price. In the factory direct model, those figures would be between 1/3 and ½ the final selling price. In a retail channel, the dealer takes between 30% and 80% margin depending on the brand and the product type. Distributors, if involved, add their own costs. 

There is no dealer in the factory direct model but this type of business must still maintain a customer interface if only in the form of a phone or email presence. Also, factory direct operations usually have lower volumes so unit production costs are higher. 

But there is more to retail selling than just the store overhead. Stores carry product that consumers ask for. In order to create that demand, there is a large overhead cost in advertising and marketing. Factory direct operations do not create demand, they make themselves visible. 

This is an important distinction because it defines who your market is. Retail selling is done largely to people who have to be told what to buy. They are told in ads, reviews and by salesmen on the floor. Factory direct buying is done by people who know what they want and do their research in order to find a suitable product. 

There are vastly more people who can only buy retail than people who have the inclination and the experience to buy factory direct. Factory direct will therefore remain for niche products sold to informed customers. These niche products have very little chance of expanding into mainstream distribution due to the cost inflation which would have to occur. 

Even allowing a great deal of leeway for the economies of production which would accompany much higher volume, the extra layers of cost and complexity involved in distribution would sink most specialty products. It might be possible to ship the product but it is extremely difficult to deliver, on the retail floor, the product expertise that went with it at the factory. 

The bottom line is, buying factory direct can be a great way to go and perhaps the only way to go if you know what you want and what you want is a unique, high performance product at an affordable price.


Sweet Spot

The term "sweet spot" in audio refers to the area in which the listener can move their head without experiencing large changes in the character of the sound. 

Generally, the larger the sweet spot the better but for some loudspeakers, like large planars (electrostatics and ribbon panels), the sweet spot can be extremely small, often referred to as "head-in-a-vice" listening. This is because one small movement from the ideal listening position (and all rooms and loudspeaker setups have an ideal spot) yields a dramatically different sound. This is disconcerting and it also limits the high quality listening area to one person. 

Newform's wide dispersion Ribbon speakers produce a large sweet spot that typically can accommodate 3 listeners on a couch. This is one of the reasons very few of our customers feel the need to use a center channel speaker for either home theater or music. 

With our new Coaxial Ribbon LineSource speaker technology (patent applied for) the sweetspot has grown even larger. No loudspeaker technology offers the room coverage of this breakthrough innovation. The room reflections and modes are minimized so there is far less soundwave interference to generate uneven response and the coverage becomes very even over a large area. Very few rooms will require more than 4 loudspeakers for home theater i.e. 4.1 is the no-compromise solution. (The .1 is the subwoofer.) 

Bottom line - easier audio system setup with or without room correction, fewer speakers, more relaxed listening, higher fidelity, more musical experience.

sweet spot





There will always be only one best spot, but a large sweet spot allows the listener(s) to move around the listening area with very small changes in timbre and soundstage stablility

Room Setups


Assembly consists of taking the mid-bass enclosures out of the cartons, attaching the bases and setting them up. For the smaller speakers, no assembly is required as the Ribbons are attached to the bass enclosures. For the systems using the R30 and R45 Ribbons, the Ribbons are packaged separately and must be bolted onto the brackets on the top of the mid-bass enclosures. This is done by first inserting the two smaller bolts bottom rear of the Ribbon structure and sliding their heads into the keyhole slots in the bracket. These smaller bolts do not have to be tight as they are there for alignment and stability. The larger bolt should then be inserted and tightened finger tight. A light twist with the Allen key (included) will complete the mechanical installation. Connect the Nordost interconnects from the binding posts on the top of the enclosure to those on the back of the Ribbon and installation is complete. Warning, the Ribbons are heavy and smooth so handle with care to avoid dropping them or putting pressure on the screen. Do Not Move the Speakers with heavy R45 or R30 Ribbons attached as they may Topple Over.


After the loudspeakers themselves, proper placement in the listening room is the most important factor in your listening pleasure. Due to their exceptionally wide and consistent horizontal dispersion, Newform Ribbons are capable of presenting both unsurpassed soundstage depth and focus. The best room setup sacrifices the least of their potential.


Under ideal circumstances, the bass response will be tight and deep and the soundstage will exist in three dimensions with precise 3D location of all of the music sources. The soundstage will extend to the sides of the loudspeakers themselves and the speakers will "disappear".


Bass response will vary with the distance between the speakers and the back and side walls. Bass depth and output will be reinforced by backing the speakers into corners or up against the back wall. Such locations typically produce too much bass and sacrifice depth of image. Corner placement may also degrade the horizontal image.

Soundstage has three variable components; breadth, depth and focus of image. There should be an even distribution of sound across the soundstage with no holes in the centre (i.e. where sound can be distinctly heard to be coming from the individual left and right speakers). Depth of image is usually the hardest to achieve but when it is achieved, musical sources extend back into space behind the speakers. The curtain goes up! The precision of the location of the instruments within the soundstage should develop as the horizontal and depth properties are improved. Generally speaking, the further out from the front wall, the greater the soundstage depth. Consider moving them out for critical listening sessions when it is not possible to have them out in the room all the time. The depth effect is highly variable from room to room. As always, experiment.

Newform Ribbon Series Loudspeakers were originally designed for the seated listener. However, given the length of some of our Ribbons, sound quality will not change significantly from the seated to the standing position as long as the listener's head is kept in the strata of the Ribbon.  When the listener’s head is significantly above or below the plane of the Ribbon drivers, high frequencies will be reduced. If you like to walk around when listening, then the R645v3 or stacked Coaxial Ribbon LineSources should be considered.

Strong wall reflections can degrade the soundstage but fortunately the solutions are simple. A strategically placed plant, bookcase, tapestry etc., will reduce sidewall reflections. Make sure both sides of the room are as balanced as possible. With all Newforms, the best results are usually obtained with the speakers facing directly forward. Toeing in the speakers results in less information being reflected off the side walls which can be beneficial in some rooms. Toe in may also be necessary if the listening position is close to the speakers. The advice above holds true for most loudspeakers. Newforms are actually easier to setup than most due to the lack of ceiling bounce and rear wave.

Do you think you have a soft (acoustically absorbent) room because of the carpets and couches? The Ribbon sees the walls above the 2 foot level. Walk around the room clapping your hands to judge the echo. If you get lots of it, you will have to take greater care in the room setup.


Placing subs in close proximity to the listening seat often reduces room modes.

Corner placement and using both a front and rear subs may also reduce strong modes.  4 subs is the ideal.

Allow 3 weeks for the Ribbons to break in but you should notice a significant difference in 3 days.

Avoid strong rear reflections.

Don’t over damp the room. Keep it simple.

Make sure the ribbons cover the seated listener’s ear.

Working with one subwoofer?  Put the sub in the listening seat and then walk around the room to find where the bass is the best. Try sub there.

Ideally the surrounds should be behind the plane of the listener so they aren’t pointing in from the sides.



Our goal is to deliver a true high fidelity experience in your room quickly and easily. This will avoid frustration and unnecessary furniture movement. Virtually any room can produce good sound with the right setup. The following diagrams will assist you in achieving optimal sound performance. 


Strong reflections foul the soundstage and upset tonal balance and must be avoided whether from the front, side or rear wall. This can be accomplished by moving the speakers away from the walls and/or putting something on the walls, bookshelf, tapestry, plant etc. to break up the reflecting wave. Toe-in can also be used. Once the reflected waves are in balance the soundstage will become very well defined with excellent depth and focus. Bass becomes stronger and usually less well defined as the speakers are moved toward the walls and corners. As they are moved toward the listening position, these tendencies are reversed. Changes of as little as several inches can produce dramatically different results. Your room is unique. The key to success is experimentation and simplicity.


1. This large rectangular room with no obstructions allows the speakers to be moved well away from the front and side walls and the listening seat is well forward of the rear wall. The reflections are weak and well delayed relative to the direct wave. 

2a. Typical apartment setups can be done like this or as per 2b. The speakers have plenty of air and the right side wall is treated in some fashion. 

2b. This setup quite a bit of air but requires a large amount of sound absorbent material behind the listeners head to damp the reflected rear wave. 

3. Going diagonally across a room breaks up the reflections and gives an excellent soundstage in what otherwise would be a very compromised installation. No wall treatment was used but the speakers were toed in. 

4. Placed on either side of a large opening into another room, depth of soundstage is excellent due to a weak front reflection and room re-arrangement is minimal. Side walls need some treatment (plant and bookcase, etc.). 

5. If you are set up well for stereo, you can be just as well set up for home theater if you can locate the rear speakers behind and off to the side of the seating position. The object here is to create an enveloping soundfield as opposed to being blasted with noise from the four corners of the room. Helpful, expert advice is only as far away as your telephone, fax or computer keyboard. You know your room and we know our loudspeakers. Let’s talk!


For a world-class home theatre system depending on the room, one of the following configurations should be ideal:



1. 4 x R630 (add a first-class sub-woofer)

2. 2 x R645 up front

    2 x R630 in the rear

    (add a first-class sub-woofer for the bottom half octave)

3.  2 x Stacked Coaxial Ribbon LineSource modules

4.  2 x Ribbon Pyramid



1. 2 x R630 and sub-woofer

    2 x LineSource Modules

2. 4 x LineSource Modules and sub-woofer


Direct support from the designer is available. Make use of our expertise. 


Why settle for a poor seat in your own theatre? Next to the loudspeakers themselves, proper room setup is the most important factor in the listening experience. Tell us a little something about your room and we will help you achieve the best results. 

You will need to print the room planner and complete the Room Planner and then either fax (705-835-0081) or better yet, email your completed sketch pdf.

You will need: A measuring tape and 15 minutes. The spacing of the grid lines is meant to be one square = 1 foot. Draw in the outline of your room to the nearest foot. Sketch in doors, windows, major furniture, large plants etc. Indicate what each side wall is made of. Feel free to add your own comments and make your own specific answers. 


First, print this page.

Then, you will need: A measuring tape and 15 minutes. The spacing of the grid lines is meant to be one square = 1 foot. Draw in the outline of your room to the nearest foot. Sketch in doors, windows, major furniture, large plants etc. Indicate what each side wall is made of. 

Next, fill in the questionnaire that follows, feel free to add your own comments and make your own specific answers.

Once you are done fax the page to 705-835-0081 or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Room Correction


The companies that do room correction the best are the companies that have been at it the longest with the most expensive gear.  Lyngdorf, Meridian, Tact, DEQX and Rives are about it for the elite of the resonance tamers.

But there has been a great deal of progress in this field in mass market products.  Courtesy of Audyssey room correction, this capability can be installed in mid-fi receivers for just a few dollars.  This greatly lowers the bar for admission to the benefits of room correction.  Not only is the basic capability accessible, it is now of a very high sonic quality with no perceptible loss in transparency to offset the gain in smooth response and phase correction. 

Room correction will not make up for a terrible room or a very poor placement of speakers or bad speakers but it can make a well thought out system sound excellent.

At this point in time, room correction has crossed the threshold from being a costly crutch for a bad stereo system to being an asset to any high fidelity sound system regardless of cost.




Receivers are the Swiss army knives of audio components. They do almost everything except move air. Long shunned by audiophiles for their inferior sonic quality, receivers of late have been gaining ground on their separate component cousins. 

One large reason for this is the increasing prevalence of digital in the audio chain. Receivers are typically made by large companies with the resources to take on digital engineering and do it right. Getting it right in digital in a mass produced product does not cost nearly as much as it does in analog. 

Conversely, the smaller high end companies are typically well grounded in the analog domain and making the switch to, or integrating digital research and engineering into their operations is virtually impossible on an economic basis. How much it cost Texas Instruments to develop their digital amp chips isn't known but but Donald Trump could probably retire on it. Other chip companies have spent upwards of $30 million with no marketable result. 

The Panasonic receivers use the TI chipset resulting in the sound quality/price ratio we were trumpeting several years ago. Once the chipset has been developed, it still takes a major player (Panasonic/Matsushita with over 250,000 employees) to incorporate a complete digital product offering. 

Other large companies such as Sony and Yamaha now have digital amp receivers with digital chipsets of their own while some companies use Tripath or ICE (by B&O amplifier modules. The net effect is to give them a big boost in closing the huge gap in sound quality between themselves and the best of the separate component manufacturers. Pioneer has chosen to stay with analog amps and upped it’s game by sensing the temperature of each output transistor and adjusting the bias accordingly. 

Onkyo (and Integra) has long been the standard by which receiver amplifier sections have been measured but the truth is the top end models of many brands sound extremely good.

Besides the fidelity of the basic signal, the other well developed area of interest for audiophiles is room correction. Taking the major room problems out of the equation is a huge step forward for overall audio performance. There has been a price to pay for this in terms of transparency in the past but with each new implementation, this seems to fade more into the distance.  The Audyssey system now incorporated in many receivers has worked extremely well in the systems we've worked with and there has been no sacrifice in transparency.

Good room correction has been very expensive to do in the past and perhaps the top end systems are better but any improvement will cost a great deal more. Lyngdorf,  Meridian, Tact, DEQX and Rives are about it for the high end and going with any of these equipment makers will add many thousands of dollars on to the total cost of your system.

Small note. The greatest benefits of room correction have always been in small to medium sized rooms. In very large rooms or rooms with large openings, any room correction system has increasing trouble with the increasingly long reverberation times. This is the case with most systems but the Pioneer does address this in their system - allowing for time sensitivity to be varied. 




Edge Audio     Hyperion 12 Super performance for $599US. Buy it direct.

HSU     Great reputation for quality bang (or boom) for the buck - buy them factory direct 

Vandersteen     Three 8" drivers in this sub make it a design that we really like. Buy it from their dealer base.

Paradigm     Buy any Paradigm sub over $600 and you have excellent performance guaranteed and great value. Buy it through their dealer base.

Atak subs - simple cabinets, killer drivers and cheap enough to go with a distributed subwoofer system.



Being square in the digital domain, advances here are coming at a furious pace and prices are dropping. A little Panasonic DVD player with 192kHz/24 bit upsampling DACs sounds awfully good. Don't pay attention to model names as product life span is fleeting, such is the pace of improvement.  In cd, dvd and bluray players, audio quality is just about the same in the digital domain.  The difference is in the analog outputs.  If you don't use analog, stick with a $100 player and know you are getting a digital input to your pre-pro or receiver as good as any $10,000 player can deliver.


Completely in the digital domain, processors can only go down in price and up in performance. Don't spend a lot up front unless you can afford it.

Nobody has said anything sounds better than the SP1.7. Expensive. We sell it.

Good by all accounts and certainly great value. Buy it factory direct.

Excellent by all accounts. Pretty expensive. Buy through their dealer base.



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