Audio Ideas: Andrew Marshall Visits Newform Research to See and Hear Their (BIG) New Ribbons

      Date posted: January 7, 2009

nf-john3.jpgSeveral weeks back, I drove up to Orr Lake, near Elmvale, Ontario, to visit John Meyer of Newform Research, and see and hear his new ribbon designs, which are significantly different from the previous generation that grace our home theatre room in King City. Newform’s development lab, manufacturing facilities, and listening rooms are all housed in a rambling bungalow and nearby woodshop where the speakers are built, up on top of the hill above the lake. He has 75 acres, so there’s lots of room for expansion.
I say bungalow, but it’s on two levels, more like some of the newer houses I see around here that look like bungalows, but are over 4000 square feet. I call them “boogaloos” because they’re giant bunglaows. But I digress…
First, let me offer some of John’s design notes on these three new models, drawn from his web site, ( “These speakers use our new Oval Ribbon which is a version of the classic Newform Ribbon optimized for the coaxial configuration with a reduced acoustic profile.”

“The Newform Research Ribbon LineSource speakers provide a larger sweetspot and reduce degrading room interference better than any previous loudspeaker design.”

“Coaxial Ribbon LineSource models come in two versions. The  LiineSource Reference [floorstander] is suitable for front loudspeakers in medium to very large rooms with virtually no restriction on height as they are completely scalable. [In other words,] the LSRs are highly configurable and tuneable to allow the ideal match for room and listening requirements.”

The photo below shows John with the smaller LineSource Monitor on his knee, with the LSR beside him on the left. The second pic (below) shows the LineSource Reference in full. Picture number 3 (at top) shows John being dwarfed by his LineSource Reference No Holds Barred, a giant line source designed to operate in a very large room. All of these can be bi- or tri-amped with a high resolution electronic digital crossover and digital amplifiers. The new NHB  has yet to be introduced on the web site, and all the models I saw and heard were prototypes, as can be seen by the crossover guts hanging in front of the LSR.

Listening started with the giant LineSource NHB  in John’s big room, which is about 24 x 22 feet, and I must say that this is one of the best, and certainly most coherent, big speakers I have ever heard. I’ve listened to various monsters at shows over the years, and most of these had more impact than accuracy. But here the combination of linear phase radiation and great bass accuracy, as well as near perfect driver integration made for an amazing soundstage. The realistic and real image size put performers, vocalists in particular, but orchestras too, right in the room, with palpable depth and remarkable lateral placement precision. The electronic crossovers and digital amplification certainly contributed to the realistic reproduction.

The other speakers were a bit of a comedown, perhaps, to this listener, but both meet their design objectives well, and sound more than excellent in their smaller spaces, the LSM an excellent surround or centre choice to match the LSR, with its smaller, also aimable oval-backed coaxial ribbon.
Pricing in Canadian dollars provides two numbers for the LSR, depending on whether the buyer wants 3 (shown) or 4 bass modules, the smaller former model coming with a 45″ ribbon at $12,680, and the latter with two stacked 30″ ribbons at $17,430. The LSM  sells direct for $2130 CAD. US pricing reflects current exchange rates, the LSM  at $1940, the LSR 3/45 $10,840, and the LSR 4/dual 30 $13,870. I’m sure John will adjust his pricing with currency rate changes, and for custom options that he offers in the various packages. Finishes can be custom ordered, and will vary pricing as well.The R8, R15, R30, and R45  ribbons themselves are available, too,  at very attractive prices, the latter at $1150 USD,and the R30s can be purchased for $880 USD a pair. That will, I’m sure, make DIY and custom builders happy through 2009. But after an afternoon of listening, I have to conclude that the new Oval Ribbon  models, complete or modular, are a significant forward step in Newform’s ribbon design technology.

Andrew Marshall

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