Sugg. Retail: $899 U.S., $1200 (CAN) pr
Size: 26:H x 7.5″W x 14″D
Manufacturer: Newform Research,
P.O. Box 475, Midland, Ont., L4R 4L3
(705) 835-9000 FAX 835-0081
(Reprinted from the Fall 03 Audio Ideas Guide)
This new model from Canada’s ribbon specialist, combines an 8″ ribbon driver with a pair of 5″ Vifa mid/woofers in a moderately sized sealed box. The ribbon, which could be called a “quasi-ribbon”, is a unipolar mylar diaphragm with voice coil imprinted on it, large magnets on either side, and absorptive material behind. It provides, wide, even dispersion, something I’ll expand on in discussing the measurements, and crosses over to the lower-frequency drivers at 1000 Hz.
This speaker is not only designed for use in small rooms as an audio monitor, but can be used for centre and surround applications with such larger models as the R645, and represents more of a point source than the line-source radiation pattern of the larger ribbons, though maintaining a similar sonic signature, especially in terms of dispersion.
The cabinet of the R58 is finished in black woodgrain, with rounded corners. And though grille covers are supplied, the metal Newform logo is covered by them, perhaps a subtle suggestion from designer John Meyer that you leave the covers off.
The measurements show these speakers to be very smooth performers, with a slightly shelved treble, and smooth lower frequency response that rolls off below 200 Hz gradually. It’s down 7 dB at 100 Hz, and about 12 dB at 50 Hz, suggesting that in audio use, a subwoofer might come in handy.
Looking more closely, we can see that the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) is a little more linear in the top octaves than the Summed Axial Response (SAR); this can be said to represent what one hears from this very smooth speaker, the SAR curve pulled down a bit at the top by its 30 and 60 degree slope at the top of the range in the axial measurements. In the PNS curve, we see +/-2 dB linearity from 200 to beyond 10 kHz, making for very natural reproduction of music, the slope at the top quite appropriate for listening at close quarters in smaller rooms.
I measured (and listened to) the R58 with the Sunfire Super Junior subwoofer, and, as measured they don’t seem to be quite an ideal match, since the sub does not extend in response much above 50 Hz. This can be a bit misleading, in that the lower end of the Newforms can be extended by placement close to corners or walls, and by experimentation, I managed to make them work together using the Junior’s middle crossover setting. The Sunfire has amazing deep bass response for so small a box, and is notably free of harmonic distortion; it’s within 3 dB between 20 and 60 Hz, but rolls off fairly quickly above. You may want to compare these curves with those of the Paradigm PDR-8 subwoofer measured with their Cinema HT speaker system. A full review of the Sunfire Super Junior will appear in our next issue
Looking at the impedance/phase measurements for the R58, we can see a pretty easy load for any amplifier, with the lowest impedance being just under 8 ohms between 200 and 300 Hz, and the highest just over 30 ohms at 70 Hz. The electrical phase shift in the crossover region is very mild, less than +/-20 degrees, suggesting excellent imaging and very predictable behaviour with both solid state and tube amplifiers.
Thus, listening to these new Newforms held few surprises. They had the quick, clean upper octaves that I know well from the R645s, and excellent midrange smoothness, with bass that was just a bit dry. Subwoofers helped here, and I would recommend one with the R58s as a stereo pair.
What these speakers offer is the clarity and speed of ribbons at a very modest cost, and surprising dynamic range: the well damped woofer/midranges in their sealed cabinets will play very loud, while the ribbons themselves are pretty much bulletproof. Five of these would make for a quite amazing home theatre system of very reasonable size and price.
The truly excellent imaging of the R58s was heard with both high resolution digital recordings and audiophile LPs. The measured phase accuracy is evident in the ability to hear into the soundstage. If you’re looking to experience this kind of audio performance at an entry-level price, you may want to explore Newform’s newest model.