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.

 

 

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

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. 

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.

 

The R630v3 and the R645v3 speaker cabinets have been quite heavily upgraded. The objectives were to improve bass pitch definition, midbass transient response and reduce diffraction effects. These new cabinets meet their design targets very successfully but, as you can see, they are far from simple to construct.

Features of the new cabinets:

  • heavy shelf bracing
  • complete diagonal wall bracing
  • damped wall surfaces
  • damped air volume
  • decoupling pad on top and bottom of cabinet
  • solid surface top
  • seamless, large radius vertical edges

Bottom line: superior construction yielding excellent internal damping and very low wall vibration plus excellent anti-diffraction characteristics. The basic elements of the speaker cabinet construction are as follows:

Vertical Wall thickness - 1" high quality MDF board
Bottom thickness - 1" bottom + 0.07" damping pad +1" MDF base
Top thickness - 1" top + 0.07" damping pad +0.5" Solid Surface polished top
Shelf braces - 2
Diagonal panel wall braces - 9
Vertical Corner Treatment - Heavily radiused (1.5")
Wall Damping
 
- Damped walls
- Multiple layers
Cross Brace Damping - Damped cross braces damped with 0.070" barrier mat
Base attachment
 
 
- Bolt in base
- 4 hex head machine 1/4 x 20 screws screw into internally fixed insert nuts
Top Material
 
 
- Solid surface top (Formica "Black Lava")
- Damped top
- Damped bottom
Brace Material - Baltic birch bracing
Grill Material - Baltic birch grill
Internal Wall Damping Pads
 
 
 
- 18 to 20 triangular pieces glued to interior walls
- Polyester film
0.25" urethane acoustic foam
- 0.07" limp, dense plastic barrier mat
Internal Volume Damping - 1" - 2" urethane acoustic foam damping
Finish - 0.020" black ash Formica laminate
Kits - Bare enclosure
Base
 
 
- Low gloss black paint
- 1" MDF, 0.070" Damping Mat
- Diagonal wall bracing
Grill Finish - Black polyester doubleknit grill cloth
Grill Mounting - Low vibration, strong and flexible pin (in cabinet) and rubber cup (in grill frame)

 

Try the knuckle wrap test. About as solid and dead as a loudspeaker cabinet gets. We will not be responsible for sore knuckles!!

Why damp the cross braces? Cross braces are connected directly to the wall of the cabinet and thus short circuit any damping inside or on the interior wall of the cabinet. A thorough approach to damping requires that any cross braces which go through the air volume of the enclosure must be damped to prevent them from acting as antennae - picking up the soundwaves inside and transmitting them to the walls. Baltic birch is very strong, resilient and very inert and with the damping mat glued to it, quite resistant to the transmission of midbass frequencies. Damping the cross braces is a practice unique to Newform Research as far as we know.

Baltic birch void free plywood is the world standard for professional sound loudspeaker enclosures because of its strength and light weight and "silence". Newform uses high grade MDF for enclosure walls as it is ideally dense and inert. MDF simply would not stand up to being hauled around in trucks and setup 3 times a month for touring groups. Nor would roadies hold up too well setting up loudspeakers made with the much heavier MDF. We use Baltic Birch over the typical MDF for bracing and damping because its qualities of superior strength and resilience are best for that application.

 
 
R630v3 top Solid surface top plate. Exceptionally smooth, seamless baffle to side transition.
 
 
R630v3 Top rear.
 


R645v3 Cabinet interior with baltic birch shelf braces, diagonal wall braces and triangular wall damping pads. Cross braces and 1" - 2" volume damping acoustic foam are added in the final fabrication steps.
 
1" acoustic foam and triangular damping solid mat/foam pads.
 
 
 
Internal view of work-in-process model LineSource Reference cabinet.
 

The R645v3, and to a lesser extent, the R630v3 have been the focus of a huge amount of audio enthusiast attention in terms of modification and upgrading. 

At least three companies, Sonic Craft, Madisound and North Creek offer crossover upgrades and Sonic Craft offers also BlackHole acoustic damping kits.   The Coaxial Ribbon LineSource based models can also benefit from this kind of upgrade approach.

For the most part these speaker tweaks are going in the right direction. Newform cannot justify the cost of these modifications in a production loudspeaker where 10 to 15% of owners are motivated to make the upgrades. However, the use of higher quality capacitors, whether Hovland, Theta or Sonic Craft and foil inductors can only improve the sound quality. Improved damping along the lines of Blackhole or Blachford on the cabinet walls again, can only be an improvement to older models but keep in mind that the v3 models incorporate multilayer damping and panel damping. 

Our only strong recommendation is that the tweakers keep the upgraded crossovers outside the enclosure. There are two reasons for this. One is to keep the large caps and inductors from restricting airflow inside the cabinet. The second is to facilitate easy changes to the values of the crossover components and to allow the "inevitable DSP crossover /biamp" upgrade to be installed easily. 

To this end, Newform has developed an external terminal plate for mounting the crossover and allowing easy direct hookup of the "inevitable full digital chain". Plug and play! 

The upgrades discussed on the web in numerous forums range from simple (the upgrade cap simply bypasses the internal unit so there is no need to go inside the cabinet) to almost a complete rebuild of the speaker. When you undertake the modification project, be sure you have the background to see it through. 

In looking at the modifications you might be considering, always keep in your mind the possible upgrade path to digital crossovers.  DSP crossovers and digital amps with built in crossovers are here now and they are becoming more common.   Several receivers and preamp processors have both digital crossover and room correction built into them.   This is an extremely potent combination.

Where you choose to jump in on these curves is your decision but choices are available now from Tact, Hypex, Lyngdorf, Emotiva, DEQX and Behringer.   Onkyo now has digital crossovers built into some of its receivers.  That plus room correction and the great sounding amplifier sections, make these Onkyos a bit of a killer ap.  Call us for an update as this is a rapidly developing area. 

In terms of ultimate tweaks, we have the No Holds Barred (NHB) models which address all of the upgrade issues and go several steps beyond in terms of advances in enclosure technology. As well, you can browse through the "Owners Projects" page to see some really well done individual approaches to solving the acoustic imperfections inherent in any loudspeaker design.

 

 

 

Specifications

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.

Many people consider building their own enclosures to save a little money. On closer examination, most people find our factory cabinets impossible to duplicate for the price differential. Kits are attractive for people who would like to do something different in the mid-bass enclosure department. There are many ways to improve on the structure of our enclosures but they all take a great deal of time and significant expense to follow through on. For those satisfied with a well braced 1" MDF cabinet, but want a finish to match their room decor, custom veneering is the only option. Again, considerable time and effort is involved. 

Given the range of Ribbon drivers we offer, a huge number of custom projects can be successfully undertaken.

For what is possible with our Ribbons and kits, take a look through the Customer Projects page. Whether your aim is custom cabinetry, in wall installations or radical enclosure construction, our Ribbon Speaker Kits will allow you to get the most music from the sweat of your own brow. We will work with you on your concept so let us know what you are planning. 

 

 

The Basic Black speaker models correspond exactly to their higher end namesakes in configuration but differ in midbass drivers and cabinet construction. The Ribbons are the same as are the crossovers. And they only come in black.

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