- Written by Jim Milton
- Published on 12 November 2012
The Newform Research Ribbon Tower Speakers In Use
In keeping with the philosophy that a speaker should be equally good at music and movies, I put many hours of listening into this review. I listened to 2 channel performances without a sub, multichannel SACD with a sub and of course some Blu-ray flicks to evaluate how well the Towers integrated with my Revel Concerta home theater and Velodyne sub woofer.
Kicking it “old school”, I listened to the re-mastered Beatles on Abbey Road. With the new and improved definition and tighter bass, I was able to listen for the sonic details that George Martin placed in the mix as well as listening for how well the Towers brought out the superb guitar work of Mr. Harrison and the drumming and cymbals from Mr. Starr. The imaging on the Towers was quite first-rate, partly due to the line source tweeters and also in part to the very narrow cabinet design which helps reduces refraction of the front baffle. The lead singers’ voice filled in very solidly in between the speakers with instruments panning far to the right and left of the speakers. Depth was also very good. I noticed that instruments and voice that were in the upper mid range had a tendency to be projected out more forward compared to the rest of the mix. This was also the case with orchestral music, where bassoons and clarinets seemed a bit forward. This made for some interesting changes from what I was used to, and I gradually came to enjoy it a bit more than the more reticent sound I heard from my Revel F12s.
For multichannel, I took an “amazing journey” with The Who’s Tommy, which I have on DVD-A. Townsend did the re-mix of this rock opera and I must say, it sounds fresh and engaging in this (96kHz) surround mix. The Towers had no trouble playing this music dynamically and at operatic levels. They blended well with the C12 center channel and S12 surrounds. I know that many people think that you should “timbre match” all your speakers (or, at least, they should all be from the same manufacturer), but I have found that to rarely be the case. I have mixed and matched many different speakers over the years and find that most well made speakers play well with others. This is especially true for surrounds, which due to their location and the shape of your ear (pinna), will never match the sound coming from the mains anyway. In any case, Tommy can bounce from speaker to speaker and I never got a sense that the music was not meshing. Both voices and instruments had a clear, natural timbre. Moon’s frenetic drumming sounded very detailed and punchy with the Towers. Cymbal crashes have a very real shimmering quality and the kick drums exhibited punch that you could actually feel in your gut. These speakers can rock!
For films, I choose Saving Private Ryan…. specifically, the last 30 minutes. The Towers portrayed every explosion and 50 caliber round with stunning accuracy. No matter how many times I watch this film, I am left on the edge of my seat as though I were seeing it for the first time. The drama and chaos can suck the viewer into the action so completely, my heart races a bit just writing about it. The Towers easily captures the whizzing bullets, the crunching gravel and huffing and puffing of soldiers running for their lives. At no time did I feel the Newforms lacked anything in the detail or power presented on the big screen. The wall of sound they produced was all enveloping and believable. I am reviewing The Lorax at the moment. Though the movie is a dud, the opening musical number sounds amazing with the Towers. Deep bass and singing from all 5 speakers throughout the room, panning front to back, side to side…sonic overload, in a good sense!
Of course, I also enjoyed my classical music and played hours of chamber music, ensemble strings and full symphonic works. As I alluded to earlier, strings had a beautiful shimmer and air with the Towers. Orchestras were well spread across the front of my room with plenty of depth as well. In most cases I played the music with just the Towers and no sub woofer augmentation. I wanted to judge the Newforms as any classic two- channel audiophile would; straight up stereo! When pushed hard, the lower mid range seemed a bit tight and congested as I reached the limit of their extension, but the upper range stayed clear with a good amount of space around the brass and strings. Organ music sounded open, with the distinctive “chiff” sound that a pipe makes as the air makes as it first blows through. Some of the Baroque organs of Europe can be delightfully “clickity-clackity” (as any 300 year old instrument would) and all of those sounds were faithfully present by the Towers. Those are some of the subtle details that can distinguish a good speaker from a great speaker. Truthfully, the bass played deep enough that if I did not own a sub, I could live with the bass reproduction the Towers produced. Only because I know how deep some of the pedal notes are through a sub, would I have known what was missing. Considering the size of the mid bass drivers, their combined numbers produce fairly strong output. When a sub is added into this mix, the congestion that I sometimes heard during complex orchestral passages all but vanished.