Preparations for our latest open days, the Kudos / Naim active ones, if you haven’t noticed, are well underway. You may well wonder what ‘preparations’ there could possibly be, other than our perpetual need to tidy up.
Our curious relationship with St Cecilia’s House lies at the core of this. The largish central space, 7m high at the apex, is both a blessing and a curse and getting the ‘big’ system to sound universally wonderful in this space is an ongoing goal.
During previous open days, listeners have remarked on how the systems in the smaller, more domestically dimensioned, rooms seem rather more impressive. More intimate, was one description.
Of course these sound a lot more like the normal, familiar, domestic spaces they are attempting to emulate. It’s easier to bond with and be impressed by the weightier tonal balance too. A large volume of air with listeners far closer to the centre of the room asks quite a lot more of the system, although it also allows for an ‘airy’ bass and huge, borderline epic sense of scale that I personally really like.
Over the past year or so, we’ve started to see the Kudos 808s as being more suited to our ‘normal domestic’ spaces than the large one. This is no bad thing, since this is where most will go. On top of that, partnered with the moderately (!) expensive Naim Statement pre-power amplifier, these twenty odd grand speakers suddenly seem comparitively low rent.
This has led to a procession of larger and ever more expensive offerings from Focal, PMC and Dynaudio.
It has been an interesting ride, and the room turns out to be not without opinions of its own. The large Focals were judged (by us at least) not to sit well in the acoustic. Our existing customer base seemed somewhat predisposed against them too, so we decided to hold off on any upstream swimming.
PMC Fenestrias certainly do great things in there, albeit with a very different kind of bass to that with which many Naim owners are familiar. Adding some corner bass traps and other damping of a more general nature and, bizarrely, moving them closer to the wall, certainly moved things along and our PMC ‘fact finding’ event definately impressed a lot of ears.
The new Dynaudio Confidences were next to join the signals portfolio. These are some of the best balanced passive speakers around. Both the top and bottom of the range, 20 and 60, work really well in our various spaces. Their bass behaviour and overall integration is probably technically the best of the speakers that we sell and many hear it this way too. But nothing is for everyone and it was interesting to hear customers responses towards the various systems. There is a lot of emotion involved 🙂
Through all of this, returning to more mundane matters, we left the corner bass traps in place. Roland, Dynaudio’s guru was happy to go along with how the various rooms sounded. In fact he was quite complimentary. Talking to Derek at Kudos elicited an interesting comment, though. ‘I hope we can take out these bass trap things’. ‘They’re not always better, you know’.
So . . . Kudos 808s went back in the big space, for now at least it’s Statement pre-amp running into 3 x NAP 500 DRs via Supercap powered SNAXO with an ND555 with twin supplies.
And no bass traps.
We started from scratch with respect to positioning and the sound we’re getting is significantly ahead of what we recall from the 808s running passively, even on the Statement power amps. The NAP500 power amps do sound a little more dynamically restricted than the Statements but the active arrangement brings phenomenal speed and resolution in compensation. Scale in all dimensions is colossal and all three rows of seating have a good, albeit different, view of the performance. The speaker / room relationship seems to be very happy.
Now that we’re content with the balance, we’ve tried reintroducing the Hofa Bass traps, just two, not the stacked arrangement of four for now and, overall, it sounds just that bit cleaner to our ears. Certainly not a vast change. Suspect Derek will want them gone, if only to reassure potential buyers that the Kudos speakers don’t need help, but we’ll soldier on for now.
Almost 26 years of notionally running Signals, and I know more than ever not to assume that we actually know anything. Work back to first principles every time and allow for the fact that there are many ‘right’ answers.
Having kept the 808s out of this room for the thick end of a year, it’s interesting and curiously refreshing to put them back. In active mode they bring something genuinely compelling. Their capacity to resolve subtle inflections and to dramatically stop and start without overhang is relevent to all musical genres. It’s part of things sounding real. On some music it is mesmerising, Nitin Sawhney’s Beyond Skin, for example, has these ‘cliff edge’ bass lines that only an active system can convey. If you’ve never heared it, you really ought!
The link to our event is here. It’s free.
There are even free refreshments and, usually, some really interesting people too.