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1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

Product Review - Note Perfect Symphony

Floorstanding Speakers - March, 1999
J.E. Johnson, Jr.

I've always been highly impressed with Australian hi-fi products, having auditioned and purchased numerous components from Down Under through the years. After auditioning the Note Perfect Symphonies, I knew that I would continue in that tradition.

The Symphonies are one of an entire line of speakers manufactured by Note Perfect. Although the Symphonies are beautifully crafted with an elegant enclosure, I was much more interested in a unique characteristic of these speakers, namely that the midrange driver has only an inductor in its signal path rather than the usual resistor, inductor, and capacitor. In other words, the midrange driver is wired directly to the amplifier with just the inductor (other than the speaker cable itself) in the circuit. This is accomplished by using a small internal sealed enclosure for the midrange driver that prevents it from having high excursion when low frequencies pass through its voice coil. The upper end rolls off via the inductor. The woofer and tweeter have crossovers, but it is the midrange signal that our ears are most sensitive to, and so, this is where the clever effects of a (nearly) crossoverless design are manifested.

The rear of the enclosure has a metal dome tweeter with a 6 step control. This allows a "presence" or "ambience" adjustment of the high frequencies, and it lightens the soundstage, which is especially useful in small listening rooms. The speaker binding posts are complex, allowing for tri-wiring, bi-amping, and also, if you are really cranking the system, there is a binding post that inserts a capacitor (gasp!) into the midrange driver circuit, and which will prevent any unauthorized excursion of the midrange driver due to high volume. The speakers are 4 Ohms nominal, which means you need an amplifier with a good power supply, but at $7,500/pair for these things, I would think that any consumer in his/her right mind would be pairing them with a terrific amplifier anyway.

We listened to the Symphonies using solid state equipment and CDs. I have to say right off the bat that they sounded like they were being driven by tube amplifiers, with the most lucious midrange I could possibly imagine. I used the rear tweeter adjustment to get a huge soundstage even though the room was relatively small. The silk dome tweeter kept the upper end smooth, and the bass was nice and tight, but oh that midrange. I'm sure that the felt pad around the tweeter and midrange driver, along with the tapered enclosure, made a difference in the mid and high driver interaction, but the lack of a capacitor in the midrange circuit has to be the most important contribution to this sound (capacitors result in smearing).

When it comes right down to the basics, just think about this for a moment. Manufacturers spend months, years, and a lot of money getting the source, the preamplifier, and power amplifier, as well as highly engineered cables, to handle the music signal very carefully with minimum degradation. They make a point of saying that there are no capacitors in this or that circuit, and then what do we do? We put capacitors, resistors, and inductors right in the path just before the signal gets to the speakers! We must . . . must . . . spend more effort in developing speakers with no crossover components in the path. The Symphonies have made headway in this, but a music system with no capacitors or inductors used as crossovers before the power amplifier or after it would be achievable with a digital crossover. Using the digital signal from a CD player, DVD player, or from analog sources converted to digital (A/D), the crossover separates the audio signal into two or three (or more) spectrum parts based on user input. For example, 20 Hz - 250 Hz, 251 Hz - 3500 Hz, and 3501 Hz - 20 kHz could be selected and sent to three power amplifiers for tri-amping a three-way speaker. Slope could be chosen for the specific drivers and enclosure. There would be no phase shift. It would be nice to have it done in 32 bit with 4 MHz clock speed to allow a flat response all the way to 100 kHz.

Of course, it is not as simple as just removing the crossover and building a small sealed enclosure for the midrange driver to make a great speaker. The sound of the Symphonies is a result of total engineering design, not just midrange. Although our ears are most sensitive in the midrange, we can hear the bass and highs too. If they are not right, a clean midrange is useless. The Symphonies have everything just right, and that is something unusual.

Now, I am not going to waste time explaining how 1:24 into track 6 of such and such a CD, the french horns had a lot of "air". We don't do that kind of thing at Secrets. Being a fan of popular singing, I thought that the Symphonies would make a big difference with music sung by the likes of Natalie Cole, which they did. But, what surprised me was how much difference they made with instrument solos such as saxophones and trumpets, particularly when the microphones were close to the horns. The old platitude about being "in the room" doesn't give justice to the sound of these speakers. The horns were in my lap. With so much midrange, I worried that it might come out nasal with some music, but it didn't. Again, this is a careful blending of the midrange driver output with the other two drivers in these speakers. The Symphonies can be ordered with a built-in 150 watt amplifier for the woofer (one in each enclosure), which allows your own amplifier just to concentrate on the midrange and tweeter. This pushes the price to $9,000 per pair.

I'm going to keep this review short and sweet. The Note Perfect Symphonies are not available in many stores in the USA, but I think that they will start showing up here and there, and maybe everywhere, soon. If you come across an audio shop that is smart enough to be carrying them in the future, please give yourself the pleasure of auditioning them.

John E. Johnson, Jr.

Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity