NeoSpeak NeoTetra Bookshelf  Speakers

NeoSpeak NeoTetra Bookshelf Speakers

September 3, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

  • Description : 2 way 2 speakers vented box
  • Impedance : 8 ohms nominal Woofer : One 6.5 inch Kevlar cone Tweeter : one 1 inch aluminum dome Sensitivity : 87 dB/w/m
  • Frequency range : 55Hz ~ 20kHz
  • Rated power : 80 w
  • Connection : single-wire binding post
  • Finish : Beech, Cherry
  • Dimensions: 17 3/8in H X 10 5/8 D X 8 5/6 W, Weight 19.2 lbs

Well, here’s something a little different for me. I actually get to review a new piece of equipment! The NeoSpeak Tetras are their smallest offering (they currently have 2, the other a “reference” product at near $3000 USD). Not really small either, their physical dimensions fitting with a fullsize monitor. The cabinets are made of 3/4in” MDF, except for the front raised baffle that adds an additional 1/4” of thickness. The cabinet is covered with a fairly nice looking vinyl wrap. Single binding posts are on the rear of the enclosures as is a 2″ port. Pretty similar to a lot of other over achievers out there, such as my old Musical Fidelity MC2s and my Castle Durham 900s.

The driver compliment is a 6.5″ Kevlar midbass and a dome tweeter. Both are of their own design and manufacture. From what I can tell, they appear to be well enough made and cosmetically attractive. They are mounted on a secondary baffle, a nice looking silver/grey one. Speaker grills are included. Sensitivity is stated as 87 dB/Watt@1 meter, so no flea powered anything should try these out at high levels. The stated power max is 100 watts (I’m assuming thermally). Air core inductors and Solen caps are used within the crossover.

Neospeak midrange driver with woven Kevlar membrane, coupled with a copper ring at pole piece to minimize distortion and variation of impedance of voice coil.

The bullet-shape dust cap effectively disperses high frequency sound. Strontium magnets produce a more powerful and clear sound than ordinary Ferrite magnets.

 

To remove harshness at high frequency, this newly developed Neospeak Audio tweeter has a complex contour to make high resonance frequency higher than the audible band.  The chambered back design with vented pole piece creates lower resonant frequency.

Andrew Kim, president of NeoSpeak, has provided me with some additional information as well, which I will report within the context of the review as needed.

Upon initial removal from the shipping boxes, I was struck by the apparent quality of shipping packing used, high quality polyethelene foam, good quality bagging, and a decent (if not a little thin) box. There is approximately 2″ of space between the box and any exterior surface of the loudspeaker, and it would be very easy to see any rips, tears, or gashes in the boxes because of this. If the shipper drops them off to you, you can refuse if the boxes are damaged, or at least force the guy to wait while you inspect. Enough said about that.

I placed the Tetras on 20″ Target sand filled medium mass stands, using Blu Tack to couple them. I put some music on, not expecting to hear much. I was wrong. These things were pretty decent right out of the box. Initial impressions were of relatively deep articulate bass, extended and smooth (dare I say “sweet”?) top end, with an apparent suck-out and slight nasality at what I guessed was at or near 100Hz (I don’t own any fancy, schmancy test equipment). The extremes were very good, I though, and I was wondering why the all-important midrange, well kinda sucked. It was OK, but not to the same level of highs, or the lower bass. I emailed my concerns to Mr. Kim, who informed me these were not broken in, they had about 70 or 80 hours on them. I remember someplace hearing or reading or something that kevlar drivers often need a lot of hours on them to settle down. Currently the speakers have about 200 hours of “break in” on them. The subjective portion of this review is based on 200+ hours of break in occurring. I will say that with each hour, everything became smoother, the bass got bigger, the midrange improved.

Some of you may remember that I am a bit of an audio “fundamentalist”. To me, tonality, pitch, and timbre, are the primary expectations I have in a loudspeaker. Everything else is “bonus”. I think at a fundamental level (initially), these loudspeakers are more satisfying than pretty much anything at or near this price that I have listened to. No they aren’t perfect, but do seem to do enough things right and are not fatiguing in any way. Imaging is not pinpoint or “laser” accurate, but slightly diffuse, but in a natural manner. As far as specific comments go, what follows is a summary of areas of interest and listening notes. As I am still trying to figure out what I think should constitute a “standard” list of test selections, if any have suggestions, please pass them along :-).

A list to listen to:

  • Handel’s Water Music -Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
  • Mozart Requiem – Les Arts Florissants
  • Norah Jones – Norah Jones
  • Tears of Stone – The Chieftains, et. al.
  • The Book of Secrets — Loreena McKinnet Pulse, and Dark Side of the Moon —Pink Floyd Back in Black–AC/DC
  • American Woman – The Guess Who Down on the Bayou– BB King Unplugged —Eric Clapton
  • Supernatural–Carlos Santana
  • Back to Basics – Christina Aguilera

SPLvsPreq

 

Ok, so that’s a beginning. I’m no audio snob, no unobtainables, and no choice cuts to highlight a particular loudspeaker’s positives or negatives. So here we go, again.

Followup Impressions

My initial positive thoughts about these speakers are being pretty charitable. These speakers remind me aurally of the original Energy Pro 22 Monitors from API, from about 1983 or 1984. Spectacular to listen to, but flawed in the long run, and not in the realm of what I consider to be listenable for any period of time. This is after listening to them for the better part of two weeks. The NeoSpeak webpage suggests these are “taylored to the North American market”. What does that mean, home theatre? “Hi-fi” listening biases? In this regard the Tetras would make a wonderful choice, but for good old fashioned two channel. They are flawed. Compared to my old Castles or the even older Musical Fidelity’s that I listen to, they have a midrange ‘suckout”, a warmer more pronounced bass (bloated?), and a cupped or veiled midrange. The tweeter is excellent, the mid-bass is quite good. I think the problem lies in the cross over, not the quality of the components within it, but the choice of crossover frequencies and slope. They speakers sound “phasey” for lack of a better descriptor. Odd spacious sounds come from them. They have quite a pushed back sound as well, as though you are listening from the furthest possible position and still hear a performance. But that was with mainly classical, and small groups. With big pop, (read that current pop), such as Christina Aguilera’s newest cd –there is real power. I have contacted Neo-Speak president Andrew Kim for comments and a response to my listening impressions. Maybe I got a flawed pair, or a pre-production set, but until the “phasey” or overly “spacious” sound is taken care of, I simply cannot justify a recommendation. If Neo-Speak can take care of this problem, then it would be a completely different story. The fatal flaw of the midrange suck-out and false spaciousness detracts so much from the listening experience, that they simply cannot be enjoyed. And that is a real shame, because everything else about these loudspeakers shows so much promise. So Mr. Kim, please, please, please do something with this single problem and I think you’ll have a new budget reference on your hands.

NeoSpeakTetra addendum:

Hold onto your socks boys and girls…
I did finally manage to have an exchange of information with Andrew Kim of NeoSpeak regarding the Tetras, and my concerns (out of courtesy I did manage to send him a preview of my initial report for Affordable$$Audio with the full knowledge of our publisher).

A couple of things became apparent:
Korean listening preferences are apparently very different than those in North America. No explanation is given, but I might say by observation (and I should have checked it out more thoroughly), that Koreans use oldschool tube amplification. Noted for a soft top end and a muddy low energy bottom end, perhaps this can explain why the frequency extremes are so very good, and why the midrange seems so recessed in level and “depth”.

Mr Kim did indicate that the crossover is an asymmetrical design, utilizing a 3rd order section for the tweeter, and a 2nd order section for the woofer. I also questioned him regarding any level attenuation choices in the circuit. I re-drew the crossover in a CAD program, looking at it carefully and using a multimeter to trace it ( I guess I wanted to know more so the prospect of opening up the enclosures didn’t really scare me much). It all seemed to make sense… but still the ever-present “phasey” sound. I downloaded a copy of the SPICE circuit simulation software, and tried to model the loudspeaker making a couple of guesses, but I guess the learning curve for that software was more than I was capable of “on the fly”. Besides, I didn’t have any of the parameters for the resistors, inductors, or capacitors.(And there really are air cored inductors, wire wound resistors, and Solen capacitors in the crossover)

I was sitting around the house today and a minor epiphany occurs (read “brainfart”). Out comes the Loudspeaker Design Cookbook, and some online searching occurred. Normal connection 3rd order tweeter crossover sections create a phase shift of some 15 degrees. Enough to have easily created the problems I was hearing. I muddled back into to the enclosures, did a minor modification to the tweeter so that the connectors could be reversed (putting the + one on the terminal and visa versa). A quick listen and what an improvement! I won’t go into details here, but I will say that these speakers right now are exceeding my expectations by a large factor. Stay tuned for a comprehensive listening notes section and test to be added next month. It will be worth the wait.

  • McCormack DNA 0.5 deLuxe/MicroLine Drive in passive mode PS Audio lll phono stage/ Oracle Alex Mkll/ SME 309(Magnesium) tonearm/
  • Grado Signature cartridge
  • Pioneer Elite PD-54 cd player
  • Castle Acoustics Durham 900 loudspeakers
  • Musical Fidelity MC-2 loudspeakers
  • Target 20″ sand-filled, medium mass speaker stands
  • Target Delta 5 equipment rack Audioquest Ruby interconnects Audioquest Indigo speaker cable XLO “green” AC cable (for the amp)
  • Purple “Tiff” AC cable for the cd player

from affordableaudio

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