Dear Readers (or should that be Listeners?), Some months have passed I last posted on my “accidental” DBL purchase so I thought it time for an update.
I left off with the reconditioned speakers having about 15 hours playtime on them and being well pleased with what they were doing, and the potential I believed I could hear in them. Over the following months they continued to improve, indeed up to 5 months I could still detect week on week improvements. It was a fairly linear development excepting one very noticeable step about two weeks in where they opened up significantly over a very short time. Had a most enjoyable Thursday afternoon treating everyone within earshot to The Stranglers Rattus Norvegicus and other such guttural gems.
So where did they get to in absolute terms? Well despite being driven by the lowly 250 they were (past tense that, see where I’m going😊) in almost every respect better than the active SL2s they replaced. Musically I’ve heard nothing like them, natural, effortless, thoroughly engaging, far and away the most musical speaker I’ve ever heard. Of course they do demand more than the poor 250 can deliver and this was I suspected responsible for a couple of anomalies.
Firstly the bass could get a bit muddled. Not in any way unmusical, not overblown, just that on upright bass playing you got the feeling that the amp was struggling to reign in the 15” ATCs, in particular otes didn't stop as quickly as they should.
Secondly the treble frequencies were delivered with an image size, soundstage, that seemed disproportionately small relatively to the rest of the sound. Not so bad when I was listening at my desk (left speaker pointing directly at my right ear). Within that image size constraint everything was detailed, realistic, glorious. I had considered this could be an issue with the tweeters, and they could be replaced at reasonable cost but being fundamental lazy (I’m very good at that) I decided to wait and see how much was down to underpowered amp and 24 year old crossover.
I’d have no difficulty living with these issues as overall everything was so much better than the active SL2s.
Ebay calling Canada…..
I had previously mentioned that one of the tweeter mounting plates was “cosmetically challenged” having at some point been treated to a recoat of fibre tip pen! Suspect this was to hide some scratches and likely some prior damage/straightening. Approached my dealer to talk to Naim to see if I could get a specification for the tweeter plates (dimensions, gauge, material) with a view to having some made. Fancied doing a pair in electric blue to match the back wall. Whilst nothing was happening with that I somehow spotted a single NBL tweeter assembly for sale on Ebay in Canada. From the pictures the plate looked mint so for £100 inc shipping I had a punt. Arrived and it’s perfect. I shall in due course, when the system is dismantled for room redecoration (apparently the blue is going to be changed to yellow) change it over.
And then there were three…
Again previously I’d sort of discounted the 135 route due to the dearth of them on the market at the moment so, with an eye still on 135 availability, I set about finding another 250. One came up sooner than expected. Terribly nice chap down in Devon had a Naim serviced olive up on Gumtree. Spoke to him and discussed him delivering it to Bristol with me paying for fuel. Next day he texted me a price cut for a quick sale and twas agreed. Transferred funds to my daughter in Bristol and the following weekend I had my third 250. Sat in her room for a couple of months, she was in Malaysia/Japan for a holiday, and eventually roped in her boyfriend to carry it to the Post Office where I’d prebooked Parcelforce.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my 250…….
Parcelforce took their time in picking it up and their first status message was “Collection attempted. Package overweight”. Mmmm. This suggested to me that they hadn’t picked it up and caused the outpouring of some expletive. Turns out they did pick it up and it was duly delivered without further issue. I had booked it in at 13Kg which I thought was sufficient, indeed in excess of the normal 12kg I’d use sending 250s (by Parcelforce) for servicing (I'd upped the weight to allow for cables not normally sent for the servicing). Attempted to weigh the package on our bathroom scales but they’re old and not very accurate. (One might argue that there's something to be said for a degree of ambiguity in bathroom scales). My best guess is that the “new” olive 250 (late 2000) is heavier than my “old” olive 250 (early 2000), maybe 1kg +/- 0.5kg. (Yes the scales are that knackered).
Anyway, I stuck the “new” 250 in to check it was working. It was. It was working rather better than my older one! The upper frequencies were presented "larger" than before, more in keeping with the scale of the rest of the frequency range from the speakers, much more detail in there and down through the midrange. Lower frequencies were no better, arguably even slightly less well controlled. Overall though it did a better (to my ears at least preferable) job of driving the DBLs than the slightly older 250. On opera especially, the sound was now totally beguiling, the detail of the individual voices, the scale of the performance, totally adsorbing, at last a viable substitute for the real thing.
Anyone aware of changes to the 250 (transformer) sometime in year 2000?
One Snaxo to rule them all……..
Asked my dealer to order me a Snaxo. Mentioned he knew someone with Briks who’d bought a 362 to replace his 36 and felt it wasn’t much of an improvement and might be willing to move it on. Could I be so lucky again? No. Couple of weeks of prevarication and he decided to stick with his 362. So a brand new Snaxo362 for DBLs was ordered and feedback from Naim was that it’d be built in December. Also mentioned I’d need some more NACA5….
Picked up the Snaxo on 22nd December. Logistical cockup on the speaker cable which wasn’t there yet. Took it home and decided to plug it in, warm it up, moving the Supercap that I’d been using temporarily on my Prefix.
Brief initial listen suggested that the Prefix wasn’t suffering that much through being only powered by the 52. More extensive listen identified that there is indeed a significant difference. Supercap powering the Prefix is, to my ears, significantly better than the 52. Don’t think it’s a lot more detail, more a case of the texture of the various elements of the music being more accurate, more realistic. In view of the price of a serviced olive Supercap I’m sorta tempted😊Damn need another shelf.
Reeling in the New Year…..
Eventually the reel of NACA5 turned up along with the 4 speaker plugs. Borrowed the reel on the understanding I’d measure what I used and return the remainder. Dismantled the system, cleaned behind it (biohazard!), run in the cable off the reel to determine the length (2* 12m) and fired up my soldering iron.
What delightful stuff A5 is to work with! With assistance of Willy Jnr we removed the tweeter/mid boxes and the crossovers from the DBLs without moving them (very short right angle screwdriver). Laid all the cables in place, replaced the speaker upper boxes, built up the Fraim (52, Snaxo, 52PS, Supercap) and the “pseudofraim” (Lingo,250, 250,250). All cables neatly dressed though the snaxo/supercap Burndy is on bubble-wrap to keep off the floor. (Need to have a think going forward on rack. More Fraim (problem with old 250 outputs and rear post), or something else).
Fired it all up from cold and ……meh….
Ten minutes in started to detect what it was going to do. An hour in it was radically better. “smallness” of the upper frequency image was gone. Everything was at last perfectly in proportion. There was at this stage a “glare” over the sound, a compression if you like (elements of which still remain almost 2 weeks in but clearing by the day). However, through that I could hear that everything was better defined, more solid, almost as if you could reach out and touch it. Most importantly the various elements of any piece of music gelled better to convey the whole.
Sound improved slowly for 4 days before the first reversal. Monday morning (last week) and it sounded like the stylus was clogged with dust (cat, dog and lazy me it does occasionally happen). That stared to clear after about 24 hours. By the Friday it was kicking ass (I believe “Blimey” may be the appropriate term). Followed on Sunday by another reversal with subsequent incremental improvement. Back on an upward trend at the moment, better than ever and I expect (based on my previous experience of burn in) with several more cycles to go.
You’ll have likely figured from the foregoing that describing these differences is not my forte but here goes…It sounds real. It sounds natural. Individual elements within the music are more distinct without any loss in overall musical coherence, indeed it is just so damn coherent. No matter what I throw at them they simply get on with it, never any sign of stress, never any hint that they can’t do what is being asked of them. If you ever get the chance to hear a pair of active DBLs then go for it. Indeed, go out of your way to do so, they are a very special, very musical, very unloudspeakerish experience.