Most members on this forum know about Audible Physics. I won't go through the history of the company here, just my history with the product. This isn't a review to 'drum up business' for Rishi. I'm just trying to provide some information and impressions for anyone that is interested. If upon reading this review, a member is curious about pricing, etc. - you can send an email to audiblephysics1 at gmail dot com instead of posting 'How much are they?' in this thread.
Concerning cost – as Steve (Winno) mentioned in his review – some of the changes / improvements over the previous models included much more expensive parts, and the sources of these parts (Denmark and UK) may influence the cost. From what I hear when I listen to these drivers, the investment has certainly paid off.
My history with the brand
I have had a few drivers from Audible Physics, and I have heard many cars that utilize these drivers. I experienced many hours of listening pleasure with the XR3M’s, the RAM3A’s, and now the NZ3ALBe’s.
I bought my first set of Audible Physics XRs in late 2010 and installed them in my BMW. At the time, I was a devotee to the wideband/noneedfortweeters group. I ran that way for several months and was quite happy with the sound. I had a set of Morel MT23 tweeters in my sails from my previous set up. One day…..I hooked them up and discovered that I ‘needed’ tweeters. Regarding the midrange sound, I loved the XRs – a ton of beautiful sound from small, but tankish 3” drivers.
When I purchased my Subaru BRZ, I mounted the XRs in the factory dash locations firing against the glass. This set up worked well – again with the Morel tweeters in pillars. I developed a problem with one of the XRs (I believe a piece of debris fell between the phase plug and the cone due to the orientation of the driver – cone facing up), so I switched to another 3” driver in the car.
Later, I had the opportunity to utilize the RAM3A in desktop speakers that my Father-In-Law and I built. The design came roughly from Zaphaudio.com Zaphaudio - Speaker 18
The RAM with the AT was brilliant in this set up on my desk. At times I would place my B&W bookshelf (2-way 6.5” and tweeter
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on my desk, and I preferred the sound of the RAMs every time. I am using a powered sub – 10” Sunfire Dominator by Bob Carver (similar to this:
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to mate with the 3” drivers. The speaker boxes have a simple crossover from PE in each box that provides a high pass at 300 hertz at a 12db slope. With the RAMs, I was using the AT ‘drivers’ that came with them to provide a bit of ‘air’.
I have the privilege to install the new NZ3ALBe 3” drivers in the speaker boxes on my desk.
I asked Rishi if I could give some impressions of the drivers. Forum member Steve (Winno) provided a very insightful review of the drivers here:
Steve's Review Thread
Aesthetics and driver photos
These are very attractive drivers. I feel that I’m the type of consumer that Rishi has in mind when he is developing drivers. In my opinion, his designs combine a strong mix of aesthetic and performance. All of his designs are visually pleasing to me (XRs with the Rosewood / Ironwood phase plugs and alloy cone, phase plug in the Arians, cone materials of the RAMs, etc). From my perspective, the audible performance pleases my ears in the same way as the aesthetic pleases my eyes. For a consumer like me…….that is important – when I see the new driver, I’m hooked with my eyes…..and I want to experience with my ears. (please excuse the blurry pics - I didn't have time to break out the tripod).
As Steve mentioned – the flange on the drivers are 3mm larger than the previous drivers (OD is slightly over 90mm), but they dropped straight in to my speaker boxes. There is a huge difference in the magnet / motor structure from the XR to the NZ/RAM to the new drivers. The dual neo magnet on the XRs took some real planning when mounting in pillars (and good rings cut on a CNC ). The RAMs had a fairly large ferrite magnet structure, and these drivers have a svelte new structure. I for one am really impressed with the look of the incorporated grill. I’m sure there will be folks who would rather have this as optional as it relates to their particular install, but for everyone else, this is a fantastic feature.
Since this is a home audio / desk reference set up, I was able to install one driver to compare against the previous RAM driver. This review of the NZ3ALBe is not intended to be a comparison review, but it was easy to do, and I was intrigued to hear the difference between the drivers. I allowed several days of desktop playing to get the new driver worked in before doing any critical listening. Just moving back and forth in front of the two drivers made the side-by-side comparison extremely evident. There were some serious differences! As Steve mentioned in his review, it was obvious that the upper midrange and treble was significantly present compared to the RAM. I noticed improvement in lower midrange and bass as well.
I’m not extremely versed in the measurement world, but I was intrigued by what I was hearing – enough to break out the microphone and the REW program. I did some simple uncorrelated pink noise measurements with the mic about 0.5 meters away from the cone of the driver – directly on axis (1/6 octave mode with no smoothing). Hopefully you can read the items below the graph - Maroon=NZ3ALBe at 90db; Blue=RAM3A at 90db; Yellow=NZ3ALBe at 65db; Green=RAM3A at 65db.
As mentioned earlier, this is a home audio application, so the following components are the only items influencing the sound out of the drivers: source (CD player or JRiver Media Center through Wavelength USB/SPIDF converter), Peachtree Audio Nova DAC (Sabre chip), Naim NAP 100 amplifier, Naim NAC A5 speaker wire, 300 hertz crossovers, and the speaker enclosures themselves. There is no EQ and the speakers are directly on-axis to the listener. I have the speakers 30” from me and 30” apart. When I listen critically (for this review), I remove the computer monitor so there is a space 30” behind the speakers to the corner of the room.
I believe the hump at 200hz is a node from the speaker box, and I attempted to verify that with some tones. I don't know how useful this graph is, but you can see that the higher peak at 200hz correlates with the bump that you see with the overall response graph.
During all of the listening for this review, I did not connect the AT ‘drivers’, and I did not connect the Sunfire subwoofer. I wanted to hear what these drivers were doing from 300hz and up.
Comparison between the RAM3A and the NZ3ALBe
I won’t go into great detail here, but I wanted to mention a few items that caught my attention. I set the two speakers directly in front of me, unplug one speaker – listen to part of the track / pause / play it again after changing plugging / unplugging. I used a meet disc from Mrs. Papasin that had a great deal of upper midrange and treble.
To my ears, I hear the following differences between the RAM and the NZ3ALBe:
• Much more energy and a smoother response in the upper midrange
• The above probably contributes to my impression that the NZs have better resolution / detail
• More defined lower midrange / bass – I got this with bass guitar, cello, percussion, and male vocals (Gregory Porter’s Hey Laura, Aaron Lewis’ Lessons Learned)
• I perceive a better sense of the room when listening to vocals – could be simply the increased response in the upper midrange
Once I was through with that, I installed the other NZ. Unbelievable!!! To hear these drivers in stereo – close stage – with a center image that is about 5’ from me – wonderfully wide – voice at eye level – just spectacular!
I listened to several tracks with the pair playing at bout 85db (according to my handy SPL meter on the iPhone). The imaging is precise – wonderful staging and sense of the space. Those characteristics are likely more about the placement of the drivers, source / amplifier driven versus the speakers themselves. I’m amazed at the layering, the precision of timbre of the various instruments.
I am finding it very difficult to write this. I’m listening to The Wailin’ Jennys, Bold Riley, and it is hard to type with my eyes closed.
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You are either listening to a gripping, soul level performance or you are intolerably bored if your eyes close involuntarily while listening………I know which this is……..These drivers are handling the harmonization of 3 female folk singers, violin, and stand up bass with aplomb. Such a purity of voice with the lead singer of the Jennys – full bodied – not in the least bit thin – perfectly life-like.
Listening to The Wailin’ Jennys singing Long Time Traveler – the separation and placement of all three voices in a huge soundstage – hearing all three parts of the harmony in absolute perfection.
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Bravo! Rishi…..I wish you could hear this! Thoughts of replacing my Audisons in the car keep going through my head……..these drivers are that good! I would love to hear them on the Class A with the current tune……..
Concerning the high treble of these drivers – this is the best implementation that I have heard. Of course this set up is different than what most will have in their car. I have two drivers directly in front of me in enclosures – I’m centered on them – minimal reflections – no windshield. I have absolutely no desire for anything more in the highs department, and I absolutely don’t feel that I’m missing anything. And that is coming from someone who has inch and a half tweeters in the car with a fairly low crossover point. I am interested to hear what these will sound like if I get a new DAC in the coming months. I have read that the Sabre DAC in the Peachtree units can be a bit glary, a bit brittle on the top end. Of all the ‘wideband’ drivers that I have heard in various car applications, this set is the one that I feel could be run without tweeters with great results. It would be really interested if these were mounted in pillars – mostly on axis – with decoy tweeters in the sails / pillars to see how many listeners would assume the tweeters were playing.
This morning I connected the Sunfire subwoofer to the system. I listened to an album from Glass Animals and from Amon Tobin.
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The 10” sub compliments these 3” drivers perfectly, and I feel that I have a complete system – especially with this type of music. The subwoofer has controls for Level, Phase, and crossover point so it isn’t a difficult thing to adjust the sub to blend with the lower end that the 3’s are providing.
Rock is a little different – great to have the midbass presence of 6.5’s or 8’s, but the beginning bass / percussion of Simplified’s Long Time Ago was simply amazing – it truly sounded like all of that was coming from the 3’s!
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Well, I’m not going to go through dozens of tracks to point out what I heard – you get the picture. Hopefully, some who are reading this will get the chance to hear this at my Spring Meet in April. I’ll have it set up for those who attend to experience this sound.
NCSQ Spring Meet
PC – Jriver Media Center – Wave 1411kbs rips
Wavelength USB/SPIDF converter
Cambridge Audio azur 540D DVD player
Peachtree Audio Nova (just using the pre-amp/DAC)
Audioquest RCA from Peachtree to amplifier
Naim audio NAP100 (75 watts x 2 in 4 ohm)
NAC A5 speaker wire 11’ per side
Thank you for reading through this review. Please feel free to ask follow up questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.