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Old 10th October 2006, 05:01 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Sydney
Default NaO (update) Completed - Impression

I previously reported on the result of the Original NaO (which is significantly different from the new NaO II) in this thread: NaO Completed - First Impression . After e-chatting with John K I realised that he had basically re-developed the NaO XOs, both the passive and active and called it NaO II (using single or dual 10' bass drivers). The passive XO was completely different, and the active XO had different response and a new tone control circuit. I then purchased the NaO Update Plan, which was to bring the original NaO ln line with the NaO II for the panel (except the XO point). The original NaO used a single 12' bass driver.

Now the update has been applied and a few weeks time spent on tuning the XOs.

What I can say is that I am totally happy with the sound. It is comparable to the best speakers regardless of prices. I have lately auditioned (again) the Wilson Maxx (AUD$80,000+?) and the JM Lab Ground Utopia (AUD$130,000) and I thought the NaO sounds overall more accurate. Of course, I may be biased because I built and tuned the NaO.

I have some audiophile friends who have been playing audio equipments for over 20 years to listen to the speakers and so far all of them liked my speakers. One of them used to declare that the Rogers LS3/5a had unbeatable midrange but confessed the NaO beats the LS3/5a. He said his old 15' Tannoy and his old 15' JBL (all of which were reference grade speakers in the yester-years but are still fashionable today) would not match the NaO. One of the forum members said the sound of the NaO has to be from speakers of $20,000. Another friend who has a system of Mark Levinson 39, Gryphone (high end mono blocks) driving the Thiel CS7 and CS7.2 sent me a note after a listening session: "Congratulations the speakers are incredible. The dynamic range, transparency, beautiful Mids and truth of timbre, transported us to the live performance. Your comment that the speakers place one right into the performance was very apt". Note that I had not completed the fine-tuning when they listened to the speakers.

Any hint of harshness in the 3k region in the original NaO has disappeared. The new active XO also integrates the panel with the woofer very well so bass is part of the music. SPL improved. It can play quite loud for most music. I have only a few CDs that can bottom the woofer at high SPL.

I am seriously looking for a cabinet maker to rebuild the cabinets. Are there any forum members from Sydney a cabinet maker and happy to help?

Any questions are welcome.

Best regards,
Bill
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Old 10th October 2006, 06:01 AM   #2
sqlkev is offline sqlkev  United States
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congrats on the new system!

I have a question,
how do you like the u-frame woofer system? compared to the sealed and ported boxes you've heard?
I'm running w-frame dipole and curious about the overall spl and increase and sound from the Nao.
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Old 10th October 2006, 07:42 AM   #3
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I have a relatively large room with a first room mode at around 25Hz. The NaO is supposed to be flat to 40Hz then 6dB down at 20Hz if I remember it correctly (I can be wrong since I have not looked into any published data for 2 years). Given such a size of the room, the spl is still OK for the vast majority music.

I play quite loud and the woofer never bottoms for these bass heavy albums:

Bartricia Barber - Cafe Blue
Holy Cole - Temptation
Jennifer Warn - Hunter

No Jazz or normal classical albums have bottomed the woofer.

What bottomed the woofer is the Japanese CD with bamboo drums with which I can only turn the volume down. The Telarc Bach Buster CD (Solo Organ music) can also bottom it if I play it loud.

It took me a very long time to find the optimal setting for the woofer without measurement equipment (In John K's circuit I have installed 3 trimpots all being able to fine tune the woofer) but once correctly set, the woofer sounds pretty good. The bass is fast and never hangs over.

About a week ago I listened to the Wilson Maxx in a smallish room at a dealer and the bass was completely messed up (possibly due to the small size of the room) and I could not live with it. The NaO is very clean.

A small problem I found about the U-frame woofer is that at certain spots in the room the bass is stronger and at certain spots the bass is weak due to cancellations. It doesn't appear to be happening with the bass-reflex. But the U-frame does not have any of the "boom" bass of the closed box and is substantially cleaner.
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Old 10th October 2006, 09:24 AM   #4
SamL is offline SamL  New Zealand
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Hi Bill,

Interesting read on your updated NaO. Can see that you are very happy with it. Is the NaO place beside the TV like your 1st photo? Have you used it in HT & how does it sound? Is it a 5.1 setup or ???

TIA,
Sam
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Old 10th October 2006, 11:34 PM   #5
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Sam,

My set up is still like in the first photo.

I have a Meridian 565 processor (with DTS, etc) and indeed I hooked up 5 channels many times. In the old days that Meridian was one of the best but now in comparison to my normal two channel stereo and sound is dry, thin and uninspiring. I temporarily used the Roger LS6 ($1,600 a pair when new 15 years ago, to my ears they were the best under $3k) as the centre and rear speakers but in fact a box speaker like that can not be placed on the floor in front of the big TV because it is too boomy. The coupling to the floor boosts the LF as much as 3dB. I have designed a new centre speaker but have not got the time to build it yet.

In any case, DTS sounds very good even with the Meridian but my primary interests is in music not movie. I simply found the sound coming from my NAD DVD player in stereo, going through my 12B4A preamp, sounds a lot more musical than using digital output from a DVD player going through the Meridian 5.1. This is for music but also for movie as well. Hearing the 5 minute drums of the track 3 in the "House of Flying Daggers" is a great experience. The drums sound like real drums playing in front of me when going from the 12B4A to the NaO. I don't think going through the Meridian I can get that sort of sound. When playing Norah Jones DVD via stereo the sound is so good, so rich, so life-like, comparable to or better than any setups at any high-end shops at any price tags playing CDs or DVDs. Again I don't think I can get that sort of musical satisfaction from the Meridian surround processor.

The NaO is superb in HT but I guess you would use 5.1 setup with the sub doing the LF and set your NaO as "small speakers" in your surround processor set up so that it cuts of the LF feeding to the NaO. In that case the NaO woofer would not be bottomed and the panel can give very accurate and musical sound. Of course, this only applies to the original NaO but not the NaO II because I think you could configure the NaO II as a closed box in which case the NaO II will do very nicely in LF and there will be no need for you to have a sub.

Regards,
Bill
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Old 11th October 2006, 03:20 AM   #6
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Hi SamL,

I've found that if a front speaker sounds good in 2-channel stereo, it is easily capable of handling the front channels of home theatre. In fact, it's usually leaps and bounds above what is required in home theatre.

The underlying question is whether it
a) is loud enough?
b will handle the bass typically found in action movie soundtracks.

Well to address a) five (or 6 or 7?) speakers is always louder than 2.

Whether the bass is "enough", well that's really anyone's guess. It is largely a matter of personal preference.

However the NaO II design is particularly flexible, and the design accomodates either 1 or 2 10" woofers per side, in either U-frame or sealed boxes.

With a total for 4 10" XLS subwoofers in sealed boxes, it is capable of reaching very high SPL levels in the bass.

Bill, glad you enjoy your speakers, but I must admit, I'm reading everything you say re: loudness and overexcursion of woofers with a large spoon of salt. With all this talk of bamboo drums and organ solos LOL, not to mention that your previous speakers were WWMTMWW I can guess that your idea of "loud enough" is much greater than mine, or most people's?

Tell us more about the lovely midrange and treble...
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Old 11th October 2006, 11:36 PM   #7
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tktran303 asked: "Tell us more about the lovely midrange and treble..."

Well, how many tweeters there can beat the Excel Millenium? how many midwoofers there can beat the SS18W8545? And if they are implemented masterfully? and they are not boxed therefore without the colourations of the box resonances.

And this second version of John K's passive XO is superb, much better than the initial prototype version.

The sound is very musical, detailed, accurate, fast, clean, oh, do me a favour, just dig out all those beautiful words audio reviewers use to describe any components they review. I am not an audio reviewer.

The speakers can play all sort of music, vocal, classical, jazz, pop, and anything, unless you expect them to give you exaggerated "boom" bass for rock music from compressed CDs, they will not fail you.

It does VERY WELL on drums, organ, piano, violin, cello, bass, sax, guitar, and human voices sound very real and uncoloured.
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Old 17th October 2006, 07:41 AM   #8
andyr is offline andyr  Australia
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Hi Bill,

I have a set off the all-active NaO crossover PCBs just waiting for when I can sell my 3-way active Maggies and start building the NaOs!!

John K developed the all-active version after I contacted him earlier this year and asked him why an all-active NaO wasn't available! However, I understood he'd designed the mid/tweeter XO to give the same result as the passive XO, so I'm wondering what drove you to say "the active XO had different response "?

Also, what do you think was the cause of the "harshness in the 3k region in the original NaO"??

Regards,

Andy
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Old 17th October 2006, 12:59 PM   #9
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(JPK) Hi Andy. I didn't want to jump in here but I think your questions are best answered by me. First, the differences in the active crossover Bill is refering to is a redesign of the active and passive crossovers for the active/passive hybrid. Bill started with the original NaO which was introduced in 2003. I updated the passive and active crossovers for the NaO II earlier this year and offered these mods to builder of the original NaO as well. The reason for the update was to imporve the linearity and dynamics of the active/passive system using what I refer to as a hybrid approach. It also gave me the opportunity to address a resoance in the 3k area which was associated with the midrange driver.

You can read about the update here http://www.musicanddesign.com/passive_xo.html and about the hybrid design approach in general here
http://www.musicanddesign.com/HybridDesign.html

The all active version of the NaO II, which I developed in response to your request, was developed after the updates to hybrid system were completed. It is consistant with the updated hybrid system. That is, when you build your system you will have an all active equivalent of what Bill is currently listeng to.
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