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

1. HEAD IN A VICE SWEET SPOT

2. NEWFORM TYPICAL SWEET SPOT

3. NEWFORM COAXIAL RIBBON LINESOURCE 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

SYSTEM SETUP

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.

SPEAKER PLACEMENT AND ROOM SETUP

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.

THE IDEAL SCENARIO

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".

ROOM PLACEMENT ISSUES

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.

TIPS

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.

 

ROOM SET-UPS

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. 

BASIC SETUP RULES

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.

WHY THE EXAMPLES WORK

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!

SUGGESTED HOME THEATRE SYSTEMS

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

 

MEDIUM TO LARGE ROOMS

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

 

SMALL TO MEDIUM ROOMS

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. 

PLAN YOUR ROOM

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. 

Instructions 

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

GREAT 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

GREAT RECEIVERS

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. 

 

Subwoofers

SUBWOOFERS

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.

Players

CD AND DVD PLAYERS

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.

PROCESSORS

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.

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

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

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

 

 

Audiophile Amplifiers

HIGH END AUDIO AMPLIFIERS

Bryston, Tact, Spectron and Hypex Audio are the best amplifiers we’ve encountered over the past decade but for some very different reasons. 

The amplifiers most would recommend without hesitation for anyone for anything would be Bryston. They sound great, they’re extremely well built and reliable and they have the best warranty in the business. If this sounds like “no one ever went wrong buying a Honda”, it is a little bit. But it’s no backhanded compliment. Have you taken a look at the 2013 Accord lately? 

Brystons are the amplifiers for audio connoisseurs too practically minded to be fanatics. Simply a great company to deal with. 

True fanatics can step up to Spectron. Loved by both tube and transistor enthusiasts, the Spectron amps produce huge amounts of power with an incredible level of transparency and detail. If you want to be able to read every last note on the page, Spectron will deliver them in large black print. Just make sure you have a backup amp in the garage. That John Ulrick and Spectron have not flooded the world with D1 amps is one of the great tragedies of hifi history. 

The Tact amps have been just super clean and powerful and we used them because of their built-in crossovers. ALL AMPS SHOULD HAVE THESE. But I digress. An extremely well built product with extremely refined, detailed sound and lots of power. Doesn’t grab me quite the way the Spectrons do but a great amp with unique capability. When plugged into their preamp with room correction, in a nice correctable room, the bottom end is unsurpassed. A steep learning curve. 

For the diy crowd, the Hypex amps are superb and come in a large number of configurations, some with built in crossovers.  Great stuff to work with.

Crown amplifiers have long been a mainstay of the pro sound industry but (as with most sound reinforcement gear) the sound quality has been improving dramatically.   If you are looking to drive your subwoofers with clean, cheap, abundant and reliable power check out the new digital Crown XLS amps.

Receivers are another category but don't dismiss their audiophile credentials.  The top end receivers from a number of manufacturers will raise a sweat on the brows of a good many audiophile amplifier designers.  Onkyo in particular has  a history of building really sweet amp sections into its receivers.  We used the Onkyo 818 in one of our demo rooms at the Axpona Chicago Audio show in March, 2013 and the system (under $10,000 complete) drew raves and a lot of listening time from people who spent the weekend evaluating 6 figure and up ultra audio packages.

 

After Purchase Advice

AFTER PURCHASE

So you've done your research, made an informed decision and purchased your Newform Loudspeakers. Now, you just have to wait for them to arrive, unpack them and find the perfect place for them. If you're worried that it won't be that simple, just take a look at the following sections, we've been through this before and everything you'll need to know is here. You can also take a look at and print out this Instructions.pdf file as well. 

If you have any questions not covered here, you can look at our Common Questions page, or email us and we will gladly help you. 

Ribbon Technology

THE TECHNOLOGY

Loudspeakers are merely air pumps. The speaker with the greatest fidelity is the air pump producing the fewest errors (room interactions aside). Film drivers have the greatest potential for making the fewest errors given their low mass and virtually 100% driven diaphragm. This low mass and great diaphragm control can also produce the near absence of diaphragm resonance which is a major source of harshness and listening fatigue in cone and dome drivers.

The Newform Ribbons take film drivers to their next level by eliminating the well known old problems and taking advantage of new advances in our understanding of what constitutes true high fidelity to the human ear. Our new technology Ribbons improve on the classic Ribbon and electrostatic designs by representing high, purely resistive loads that any amplifier can drive to the best of its ability. At the same time, the sensitivity is higher, further reducing amplifier stress and allowing the greater dynamics of our systems to be exploited.

The Newform Ribbons provide extremely smooth and extended frequency response with unmatched horizontal dispersion. Why do our new designs compare so well to the classic electrostatic and Ribbon designs? Newform Ribbons have narrow (3/4"), tightly suspended diaphragms that inherently provide extremely good horizontal dispersion. As one of our kit customers pointed out, "Newform Ribbons simply store less energy than any other design I have heard". The less stored energy (released several milliseconds late), the cleaner the sound.

Once we have exploited the benefits of film diaphragms to create a superior sound wave, there is the question of delivering that wave with maximum integrity into the room and to the listeners ears. Aside from the obvious benefits that derive from being a Ribbon or film driver, there is the issue of diffraction. Our Ribbons have the smallest acoustic profile of any driver operating from 1 kHz up. When it comes to acoustic profile, the less you see, the more you hear. The entire structure is only 3 1/4" wide and 2 1/2" deep. (The Oval Ribbons are only 2" wide.)  It is heavily beveled at the front and the diaphragm is within 1/8" of the front of the structure. Given the narrow width of the diaphragm (dispersion is a function of diaphragm width and wavelength), there is very little to interfere with extremely even off-axis response. A critical consideration in producing a truly coherent soundfield in home theater.

Excellent and very even off-axis dispersion patterns are prime contributors to a deep and well-focused soundstage. The clarity, which is created by our narrow film diaphragm, is maintained by the absence of anomalies as the waveform moves beyond the loudspeaker structure and into the room. Once into the room, they will not be degraded by ceiling and floor reflections because as broad as our horizontal dispersion pattern is, our vertical dispersion is conversely limited.

This line source characteristic is of extreme importance to soundstaging focus and depth as well as to soundfield coherence in home theatre and intelligibility in public area installations. Conventional system manufacturers are coming to this conclusion as well as can be seen by the emergence of systems in the higher end featuring dome arrays and ever more ribbons. These arrays produce cancellation patterns which effectively reduce vertical dispersion. Newform Ribbons produce a naturally controlled radiation pattern which has no comb filtering in it. 

In the complex world of sound reproduction, design simplicity is the foundation of excellence. For a more complete discussion of our technology and its practical application, browse through our "Published Articles" section.