SBLs

I recently bought a pair of SBLs upgraded with the mark 2 bass drivers. I was planning on using www sbls.co.uk as a guide to getting my sound right but the website went down the day I bought my speakers! I think the owner of the site hangs around on these forums? Maybe there's a way to get the site back up? It was a great resource.

Also, I would love to listen to a perfectly set up pair of SBLs so I can determine whether or not they are really what I want. My ears are taking a while to get used to them. Maybe I should just buy a pair of modern speakers... 

Original Post

That's a shame, lots of people seem to have used the site. Just tried via archive.org and it's got some of the site, but not all.

IIRC it was Garyi who put it up. Does the newfangled forum (ok, not that newfangled any more) support things like @GARYI to alert people?

An excellent guide to setting up SBLs is included with the purchase of a new gasket set. i posted a copy of this guide on this forum a few years ago, i'll see if i can find it and post it again.

What serial number are your SBLs?  [or year of manufacture]

Are the tweeters and x-overs original?

Are the cabinets in good condition?  

What is the rest of your audio system that you intend to use with them?

Debs

Johnny2Shoes posted:
@NAIM_NYMPH

The serial number is 43440. I'm pretty sure the xovers and tweeters are the
originals. The cabinets are in great condition.

The 43xxx serial number identifies them as manufactured in 1988, so fairly early ones. The mkII mid/bass driver upgrade would have been done during or post 1995, these drivers tend to last quite well so we can assume they are okay...

If the x-overs and tweeters are originals from 1988 they will be well past their best, and the performance you'll hear won't represent anywhere near as good as their potential - in fact they will probably sound awful. However, if the cabinets and drivers are fine then you have the option of replacing the worn out bits and bringing your SBLs back up to spec, it maybe a leap of faith if you've not heard SBLs because you'll need to spend some money on them but IME  this is still a very cost effective way of gaining a classic speaker that has the capability of out-performing any other speaker for 2 or 3 times your total expenditure.

You live fairly close to Rearsby, Leicestershire - the home of Cymbiosis  (naim dealer) Peter there is a good engineer who can replace your tweeters with a new matched pair of naim supplied ones, not sure how much this costs now but will guess around £400 ish, plus x-overs are still available for SBLs at £228, and a new gasket set too which was around 80 quid last time i looked.

Spending over 700 quid on an old pair of SBL may seem daft but in reality you'd need to spend a lot more to get a better pair of speakers, and if hypothetically SBLs were still manufactured today they'd probably cost over £4k a pair [or more?]

Also recommend  you use naca5 speaker cable - if you're not already, and at least 4 meters long for each length : )

hope this helps

Debs

 

 

Basic tests first:

  • Are the speakers sealed properly? The bass/midrange unit should come back slowly when pressed in with your fingertips, literally 3 seconds or more to return to rest. If it comes straight back out, then the gasket seal is broken and needs to be re-made.
  • Are the speakers near the wall behind them? Typically SBLs must be up against a wall to provide bass reinforcement. These are not speakers which like any space behind them. There are exceptions to this rule, but they really are exceptions.
  • Are the speakers dead square to the listening position? This is usual for best results. Toeing in the speakers is not usually successful.
  • Are the speakers in the equilateral triangle positions to the listening seat? In other words, they should be as far apart from each other as they are from the listening position. Placing them closer together can give a congested confused sound. Placing them further can cause a hole in the middle.
  • Is the top box and frame touching the bass/mid box? This is bad. The top box should stand free and the bottom surface should be parallel to the mid-box's top surface.
  • What interconnect are you using between CD and amp? Typically, I'd suggest a Chord Crimson DIN-2phono or a HiLine if you're feeling flush.
  • What speaker cable? I always use and recommend NACA5 for Rega amps. It's a brilliant combination.
  • Are you using the original power cables of both CD and Rega? If not, try them!
  • Are they plugged into the wall or a multiway block? If the latter is it surge protected or a power conditioner? If it is, that will be doing you no favours at all. 
  • Do you have other electronics plugged into the same distribution block? If they are modern things like TV, set top box, games console, unplug them and see what happens. You want to plug those sorts of things into a conditioned block to keep their noise away from the HiFi.

If you've checked the above, and you're still unhappy, try to describe what's wrong and maybe we can help.

Frank.

Also, where possible, nothing in between the speakers. JV was quite firm about that with SBLs.

Not always practical, and I suspect that in my case having to have stuff between the speakers was the reason they sounded better slightly out from the wall. Lots of experimenting to find the optimum distance (followed by a re-seal once the right position was found) paid dividends.

Frank Abela posted:

Basic tests first:

  • Are the speakers sealed properly? The bass/midrange unit should come back slowly when pressed in with your fingertips, literally 3 seconds or more to return to rest. If it comes straight back out, then the gasket seal is broken and needs to be re-made.
  • Are the speakers near the wall behind them? Typically SBLs must be up against a wall to provide bass reinforcement. These are not speakers which like any space behind them. There are exceptions to this rule, but they really are exceptions.
  • Are the speakers dead square to the listening position? This is usual for best results. Toeing in the speakers is not usually successful.
  • Are the speakers in the equilateral triangle positions to the listening seat? In other words, they should be as far apart from each other as they are from the listening position. Placing them closer together can give a congested confused sound. Placing them further can cause a hole in the middle.
  • Is the top box and frame touching the bass/mid box? This is bad. The top box should stand free and the bottom surface should be parallel to the mid-box's top surface.
  • What interconnect are you using between CD and amp? Typically, I'd suggest a Chord Crimson DIN-2phono or a HiLine if you're feeling flush.
  • What speaker cable? I always use and recommend NACA5 for Rega amps. It's a brilliant combination.
  • Are you using the original power cables of both CD and Rega? If not, try them!
  • Are they plugged into the wall or a multiway block? If the latter is it surge protected or a power conditioner? If it is, that will be doing you no favours at all. 
  • Do you have other electronics plugged into the same distribution block? If they are modern things like TV, set top box, games console, unplug them and see what happens. You want to plug those sorts of things into a conditioned block to keep their noise away from the HiFi.

If you've checked the above, and you're still unhappy, try to describe what's wrong and maybe we can help.

Frank.

Good post, Frank

however you should delete the part i've highlighted due it being complete rubbish! : D

Debs

Debs,

£400 for tweeters and £229 for the xover. Checked with Naim today so you were spot on.. Sadly Mk1 bass units unavailable and Mk2 will not fit my 1989 cabinets.

Mulling this over as I really love the SBLs. I have to gamble the 600 investment against my original bass units lasting a good few years more, and how much they become the weak link given their age....

Thanks to Naim for such a speedy reply, great service as ever.

Stu

You say in your first post that you have mk2 drivers, yet in your last post you say that mk2 won't fit?

Have you actually got mk2 bass units? They have flat plates all round, without a lip. The mk2 do in fact fit in the early cabinets, it's just that the apertures need to be made a little larger, which is not hard to do, so long as you know what you are doing. 

High HH,

I am not the OP so different speakers!

I have heard that they can be made to fit, however my dealer may have a very tempting solution of some Mk2 in cherry in vgc. Newer if not new drivers so I may well take him up on them. Just need to match them with our decor...

thanks again,

stu

Oops, sorry! I'd get the cherry mk2s if I were you, so long as you like the colour, which can sometimes be a rather nasty orange. Note that the real mk2 has an all over veneered cabinet made by Hornslet, which make for a better sound. Most sold as 'mk2' are actually the original cabinet but with Naim rather than Mordaunt Short bass units. 

No, Billy Vee, but if I get gerzumped I will be blaming you!

They need a xover but otherwise look good. Waiting for the boss to come home and approve the colour but strong chance that it is a good solution to my problem. I would probably keep my old black ones as insurance.

Might treat them to a new xover and a gasket kit of course. Cheers again to Paul for the suggestion. 

stu.

Johnny2Shoes posted:

I mainly listen to cds - at least until I upgrade my turntable. I'm using a
Naim cd5 and a Rega Elex-r.

Ah, SBLs.  One of the very best speakers ever made.  I wish I still had mine.

Debs and Frank Abela have given you good guidance.

However:

I think you have two issues.  First, as Debs and Frank note, the tweeters, crossovers, and foam driver covers should be updated - your speakers are 28 years old (!), and that's old enough to vote, have kids, and buy marijuana (at least in Colorado!).

Second, SBLs are *extremely* revealing and intolerant of inadequate electronics in front of them.  While your CD5 is probably adequate (if barely), your Elex (while quite good) is simply not up to driving them.  The generally accepted minimum to drive a set of SBLs used to be a 72/Hicap/140 (and preferably a 250); when the 52 came out it rather simplified things as a 52/140 was obviously and dramatically better than 72/HC/250.  So you might investigate source and amplification upgrades, else you'll never hear just how good SBLs are.

stuart.ashen posted:

No, Billy Vee, but if I get gerzumped I will be blaming you!

They need a xover but otherwise look good. Waiting for the boss to come home and approve the colour but strong chance that it is a good solution to my problem. I would probably keep my old black ones as insurance.

Might treat them to a new xover and a gasket kit of course. Cheers again to Paul for the suggestion. 

stu.

Bloody hell, I've just seen the price. Get down there first thing in the morning! Or camp outside overnight. Even with new crossovers and some of Tom Tom's replacement grilles, you will have a bargain. 

Ahh HH,

well they do look lovely, especially in your newly decorated room! (Clearly lurking here too much now I am retired).

Thing is, I planned to upgrade to them years ago and they didn't do much for me on dem. Better hi fi but less involving than my beloved SBLs. Still great speakers but lacking in boogy for me at the time. Put the money into electronics instead...

Thats not to say I wouldn't enjoy a pair at the right price! This was a comparative rather than an absolute judgement.

Stu

Hi all,

Thanks for the advice. I have done much of the above. There are financial constraints on me currently regarding cables and upgrades and I just want to get the best out of what I have for now. I'm going to try rearranging my set up over the next week and paying a visit to my local dealer - Cymbiosis - to see what can be done...

The reality of my Hi-Fi situation and how I've ended up here is this:

I had an pair of Mordaunt Short MS 5.50s as my first 'proper speakers' that I powered with a Technics SU-A600 and read CDs using a Technics SL-PS700. I was really happy with this system for years...

Then one day I was given a Naim CD5 which was both a blessing and a curse. I felt like everything else in my system was a bottle neck so I went a bought a pair of Naim SBLs second hand for £600 and then a Rega Elex-R new for £800. I'm spent out for now. The cables I'm using are Van Damme Blue Series Studio.

What would you guys have done with a Naim CD5 and £1400 to spend on Hi-Fi?

Johnny2Shoes posted:

What would you guys have done with a Naim CD5 and £1400 to spend on Hi-Fi?

First, don't beat yourself up. Your set just needs optimising. A half decent rack (Ikea?), good wires (I'm sorry, I dont know your VdH ones but someone will) and plenty of attention to detail in the setup of your new SBLs. New foams at around £55 did wonders for mine. This can be a nice set for you.

Then enjoy your music and get on with your life.

Regards, Chris

naim_nymph posted:
Frank Abela posted:

Basic tests first:

  • Are the speakers sealed properly? The bass/midrange unit should come back slowly when pressed in with your fingertips, literally 3 seconds or more to return to rest. If it comes straight back out, then the gasket seal is broken and needs to be re-made.
  • Are the speakers near the wall behind them? Typically SBLs must be up against a wall to provide bass reinforcement. These are not speakers which like any space behind them. There are exceptions to this rule, but they really are exceptions.
  • Are the speakers dead square to the listening position? This is usual for best results. Toeing in the speakers is not usually successful.
  • Are the speakers in the equilateral triangle positions to the listening seat? In other words, they should be as far apart from each other as they are from the listening position. Placing them closer together can give a congested confused sound. Placing them further can cause a hole in the middle.
  • Is the top box and frame touching the bass/mid box? This is bad. The top box should stand free and the bottom surface should be parallel to the mid-box's top surface.
  • What interconnect are you using between CD and amp? Typically, I'd suggest a Chord Crimson DIN-2phono or a HiLine if you're feeling flush.
  • What speaker cable? I always use and recommend NACA5 for Rega amps. It's a brilliant combination.
  • Are you using the original power cables of both CD and Rega? If not, try them!
  • Are they plugged into the wall or a multiway block? If the latter is it surge protected or a power conditioner? If it is, that will be doing you no favours at all. 
  • Do you have other electronics plugged into the same distribution block? If they are modern things like TV, set top box, games console, unplug them and see what happens. You want to plug those sorts of things into a conditioned block to keep their noise away from the HiFi.

If you've checked the above, and you're still unhappy, try to describe what's wrong and maybe we can help.

Frank.

Good post, Frank

however you should delete the part i've highlighted due it being complete rubbish! : D

Debs

Nope! You're wrong.

Frank.

Johnny,

I too looked askance at your electronics, but on reflection decided not to mention it because of the following:

I do recall using 72/140 to drive SBLs successfully. The Elex-R is a very capable amp, and it can drive almost anything. So although you won't be getting the best from them, it shouldn't be a dreadful mismatch.

The CD5 is a very good CD player. It's older equivalent would've been the CDi. Some would say that's a better machine, but I'd argue there's probably not much in it, though the 5 isn't as exuberant as the CDi I suspect.

So there you go. Although the SBLs are not an automatic match and capable of far more, these electronics should at least serve well. However, the cabling is another issue entirely. I don't know the van damme stuff but it gets good reviews. If/when the funds allow, consider the suggestions made above, and ask Peter to lend you the Naim cables. But not before funds allow!

Frank.

HH,

an update. Have agreed to buy the SBLs at Billy Vee including a new xover and gasket/pad kit. My black ones will be safely stored as insurance against future failure of the Mk 2s. 

Johnny,

good luck with your SBLs. If you end up liking them very little else will do!

Stu

Time to come clean guys!

Which forum member tried to gerzump me on those SBLs at the weekend? Can't say I blame you, especially at the price. All's fair in love and hi fi it seems....

Wryly amused, and if you do come clean I can pm you how good they are 

Thank you Paul for your proffesional standards as ever. And I know I only have myself to blame for being so open in this place (although I could blame Hungry H for his enquiry....)

Johnny, how are you getting on with your SBLs?

Stu

I agree with Chris.

Live with the system and get a feel for the SBLs. You should at least get to know their basic characteristics (fast, accurate, musical and very revealing). If you like them over an extended time they can take you a very long way up the ladder of sources and amplifiers should that be your intention.

In the interim I would save for something like a s/h 72/hicap/140 or 250. That would make them sing (although getting a dem might be impossibe).

Stu

Hi Chris,

No I'm not going to do that, I'm planning on keeping the gear long term and
maybe separating to two systems with different partnerings. I'm just
interested in what people on here would have done in my situation.

I'm not beating myself up at all. I'm happy with it for now, it's certainly
an upgrade from what I had before. I'm used to a more boomy sound from the
Mordaunt Shorts I had but I'm letting my ears get used to this stuff now. I
rearranged the room and it sounds better, more real than the other setup.

The only thing frustrating me at the moment is that I'm losing the bass
lines as they go up in to the higher mids. They get lost in the mix up
there and lose their tone. It's difficult for me to know why this is. It
didn't happen with the Mordaunt Shorts. As I say, I've not actually heard a
properly setup and partners pair of SBLs so I don't know how much of it is
down to the speaker.

Personally I would listen to them and see how they sound before immediately spending a load of money on them.  

My experience:

I got a lovely pair a few years ago from Alastair at Signals.  They were mint, and transported very carefully.  You are supposed to rebuild them after each move, and I even had (and still have) a new gasket kit.  However when I got them home and set them up they sounded amazing so I never bothered rebuilding them.  They are sealed very well, probably too well in fact but it means there is no risk of them 'blowing a gasket' so to speak.

Servicing & replacement crossovers:  Many people say this will renew the life of the speakers.  This is true, but again, i'd listen to them first.  I let my OCD get the better of me recently and purchased some brand new crossovers from Naim, however, listening tests between old and new was a strange one.  The old ones actually sounded better (and yes I gave them plenty of burn in time).  They were more open and ever so slightly more crisp.  So I sold them.  It's possible that I have just become so accustomed to the current sound that I do not want it to change.  I guess my point is don't get too pent up about replacing tweeters and drivers etc unless something is broken.  Mine are an old set and while they look new (also bought new grills from Tomtom) they just sound so nice.  I will not be selling them anytime soon!

Finally, if they were £400 - £500 pounds already, surely spending another £200 - £350  (possibly more) changing parts on them, is going to make them a less economical choice?

SBL's can sound 'dry' and not as bass heavy as some speakers, but give them time and you will come to love the great midrange and crisp sound.  Add a power amp if you like more thump.  Mine go to outrageous volumes vie my UQ2, Nac 32, Hi-Cap and Nap 100.

Good luck!

Good post Lewis!

A bit of time listening and learning their basic sound before spending his cash on new parts will ensure long term satisfaction (or an early sale).

My new pair are effectively an upgrade as they are Mk2. New xover was needed though as they had been driven actively by their former owner. Looking forward to firing them up!

Stu

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