Speaker to Me
Good music only sounds as good as the loudspeakers it s coming through. Can the NAD 8225 budget-priced speakers deliver the quality computer musicians need?
Whatever size your set-up, at the end of the day you're going to need something to listen to your music on - Darrin Williamson looks at a pair of speakers that should fit the the rooms and suit the pockets of everyone
When getting into the world of making music it's all too easy to spend your resources on inputs and forget about outputs. You could be sitting there with racks of the latest synth modules going into an amazing mixing desk and be listening to the whole thing on a pair of £1.99 Walkman headphones. An extreme example I admit but you see what I'm getting at don't you?
In short, your masterpieces will only sound as good as the speakers they come out of. Duff old monitors will at worst make your music sound generally dull and toneless which could lead you to lose interest altogether. At the very least they will colourate the sound which would lead to you making your recordings with too much bass or treble to compensate. This will sound okay on your set-up but lousy everywhere else.
To combat this, American Hi-Fi company NAD have produced a pair of small and inexpensive speakers which should fit very nicely into a home studio.
Now an audiophile's requirements for Hi-Fi speakers are a little different to those of a musician. A musician is after a good, solid, allround sound (as is the aforementioned Hi-Fi buff) but more importantly he wants an accurate sound so he knows that the sounds he's playing are what he's hearing and not a misleading interpretation. With this in mind I took the NAD 8225s for a trip across the audio spectrum.
The 8225s measure in at 340 X 200 X 177 millimetres which make them just the right size to put on bookshelves or mount on wall brackets (although, as with most speakers, best results are obtained by placing the speakers on floor stands). The range of colours is equal to that of Henry Ford when the model T came out which could be a problem if wife/girlfriend/mum doesn't approve of black cuboids invading whichever room you use for music. It would have been nice if there was a version in white, or woodgrain, or something.
In some respects the compact size of these speakers is a blessing - for one thing they won't dominate a room and they are relatively cheap to produce. However in the past there have always been two drawbacks to small speakers: no bass response and/or no efficiency. But NAD have already spotted these potential problems and have tackled them from two directions.
Firstly, the bass response of the comparatively small speaker was cured by adding a hole in the back of the cabinet called a tuned reflex port which also helps sort out any resonance from the speaker cabinet.
The efficiency problem was cured by using a massive magnet on the bass driver, so massive that it's the single most expensive component in the whole unit.
The bass driver, a Cobex cone, combines rigidity, low mass and high internal damping which results in a clean, accurate sound. The soft domed tweeter is unusual in appearance and has been blended in with the bass driver by means of a crossover. This is not uncommon but what is uncommon is the high quality of the job. It's not unusual for manufacturers to try and save a few pennies in this department which can result in the best drive units in the world sounding terrible.
At this point it might be a good idea to satisfy the audio enthusiasts who like facts and figures...
Frequency range: +/-3dB 70Hz-22kHz, -6dB at 55Hz
Max Output: 107 dB spl
Sensitivity: 89dB spl
Amplifier requirements: 15-60 Watts
Normal Impedance: 6 ohms (minimum 4 ohms)
As with so much of the hardware we review in Micro Music, loudspeakers are very much a subjective thing (like music itself to a certain extent). What sounds brilliant to one person may really annoy another. So to judge the 8225s I tried them firstly as music output devices and secondly as reference monitors.
To judge how musical they were I hooked up a Sony 16 bit Compact Disc player to a Yamaha 20 watt amplifier. I tried a wide range of music from The Planet Suite right the way through to some Acid House. Happily they performed beautifully. There was certainly no problem with the bass response and my 20 watt amp was giving them more than enough output so NAD certainly seem to have achieved what they set out to do.
As monitors they performed equally well and I definitely tried to catch them out, believe me. For the tests I took a Sequential TOM drum machine, blasted in a few rhythms and played them back at a tempo of 240 BPM. Over the top of that I put a bottom octave chord of the soundtrack preset from the Roland MT-32 which is great for giving your speakers the shakes. Once again they performed very well indeed, certainly not disgracing themselves in the presence of bigger, beefier monitors.
Obviously compact speakers won't replace dirty great big ones if it's a chunky sound you want, but for MIDI set-ups and home studios, particularly those where you are listening to a Hi-Fi as well, the NAD 8225s have got to be worth having a listen to.
Product: NAD 8225 Loudspeakers
Price: £130 per pair