DBL refurbishment

Part 4. Listening.

Finally fired them up late on Monday afternoon. First played a track on the Kans and then the same track on the DBLs. Initial impressions were that the Kans were better! Clearly the re-coned bass drivers weren’t yet contributing much and the 250 driving the DBLs was stone cold so the rest of the frequency range was a tad harsh, however the experienced ear picked up a hint of something to come. Over about 20 minutes the 250 started to get into its stride and things were much better. The portion of the frequency range that was present was doing things that my (active) SL2s couldn’t. Pulling out details and textures that the SL2s simply could recreate. Even with the same tweeter the DBLs produced what sounded like a more extended top end.

Still no bass though. That arrived after about a half hour. Not a complete compliment but what sounded like certain frequencies (attempting) to join the party that was going on upstairs. The bass continued to evolve and there was a step change after a couple of hours, a lot more frequencies suddenly coming into play. At this stage though it reminded me of Corporal Jones doing drill, the Bass couldn’t quite keep up with everything else, it started late and finished later. Despite this it was still very engaging, I had no difficulty playing record after record with a growing play list compiling in my head. Since then it’s been a story of ongoing improvement, more range, more articulation, more finesse, more music.

Yesterday I finally got around to trying some choral. Small speakers simply cannot (in my experience) do justice to 50 blokes belting out a hymn or a drinking song. The DBLs can. They really can.

With about 15 hrs play on them they are really very good, on a decent recording they simply disappear. At times I can still hear where the bass still hasn’t fully developed I have no doubt that it will. I’m really looking forward to that.

Meanwhile I’m going to have a beer, accompanied by The Mousehole Male Voice Choir. I reckon I’ve earned it.


Willy posted:
Marksnaim posted:

Really interesting thread here Willy and good luck with the refurb. Any longer term plans for these, active maybe? BTW Falcon Acoustics make a replacement for the B110 midrange which works very well. I have them in my Briks.

I'm a big fan of active. My SL2s were active, as were my IBLs before that so it's only a matter of time, and bank balance recovering from the preemptive quid pro quo of the kitchen upgrade.




+2 Nice Thread, I can tell you were fond of the Linn/Naim Era, Kans, LP 12, 135s, etc...!

After the Linn/Naim Divorce, I don't think Julian figured out the back end until the SL2s came around.

The Middle, was always a lock, and then the Dibbles!

I don't think you have to break the Bank, to go Active, Naim debuted it's Reference CDP at the 2007 CES Show.

CD555>282>Snaxo>3 x 250.2> DBLs!

Just saying!

Nice thread!

Enjoy your Music!

Jay Coleman posted:

Great thread!

A pair of 135s would bring more bass (and other things).

Having moved from active SL2s I'm 2/3 of the way to active with 250s�� Had thought about starting with a pair of 135s and then adding a snaxo 362 to go wonky active as an interim. Trouble is the 135s all seem to have found good homes at the moment. Haven't seen a pair in months let alone 3 pairs. 



youve obviously heard your DBLs now

keep looking for half a dozen 135's 

a 362 & supercap 

then really here what those things can do


those ATC's look fantastic, was the work done over there or did they have to come across the pond here to jolly old England Land ?


lyndon posted:


youve obviously heard your DBLs now

keep looking for half a dozen 135's 

a 362 & supercap 

then really here what those things can do


those ATC's look fantastic, was the work done over there or did they have to come across the pond here to jolly old England Land ?



The drivers were shipped across to ATC in England. They look even better in the flesh than in the photos.

I am seduced by the idea of a six pack but as I said there as rare as hen's teeth at the moment so most likely I'll go for another 250. I do keep an eye on the market so if an opportunity arises in the future I could pounce.


ice kachang posted:
lyndon posted:


you will need to remove the sealant between the bass driver cabinet and the lower cabinet 

its pretty much straight forward mastic, most of it will peel off, the last bits that are left can be removed with a Stanley knife and or soapy water

obviously this will need re instating



Thanks.  They were originally built by Doug from Naim who I believe used 'fairly liquid' on the gasket.  I was told that this meant that I should be able to remove the bass boxes without destroying the seal.

Finally got round to packing up my DBLs.  Separating the Bass cabinet from the base was very simple.  Gasket remained intact and mastic just peeled off.




The boxes don't half take up some space !

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.



This is a wonderful thread, just love it. Great work Willy, all those boxes cables are a struggle with all sorts of things trying to get in the way, but the effort is a pleasure once you have the big DBL's on song. nothing compares.







Almost forgot…..cosmetics….

Mooching around Lidl one carefree afternoon a few months back, looking for another bargain like their £9.99 thermal work trousers (gets cold up here in the North), came across some wood furniture restoration pens. Variety of wood finishes available, excepting of course black ash. Got me thinking and I had a look on-line. Came across these…


Black wood restoration pen and wax in a variety of colours. Haven’t actually put them to the test yet. The speakers don’t look too bad from listening distance, have to use the grilles due to Zhukov shaking sand over everything after his beach walks, Mrs Willy just loves that. (I reckon that they create a gravity well that stops you seeing the scratches if you’re outside the event horizon😉.)

Have a pair of "well loved" black Mk1 Kans in the attic I’m storing for a friend so will likely have a go at them first and then when the Dibbles are removed for room redecoration move on to them. Others had expressed interest in “tarting up” black speakers so thought I’d share the fruits of my research into available products. If anyone does have a bash at these please post any hints on their use.


Gavin L posted:

I have black DBLs bought some years back. A black permanent marker did the job perfectly (although the speakers are not in direct light which is more forgiving). New replacement foam (US import) made the biggest visual difference. 


Luckily when I bought the DBLs they came with a brand new pair of (US  sourced) foam grills. They cover a multitude of cosmetic sins.

Have in the past, with black Briks, tried various markers and inks but couldn't find one that was gave a seamless repair. Most of them had a purple hue (or is it a tint?). Passable on an edge but not so good on a flat surface. I'll report back when I, eventually, get around to trying the Edding repair kit.


I tried a regular permanent marker on some black ash Royds, and after several coats, it did a decent enough job. In bright sunlight, you could see a slight blue tint reflecting off the surface, but with the speakers normally positioned in the shade, it wasn't visible. I'd be interested to hear how your Edding repair kit works out, I've used similar products from Liberon on wood furniture with good results.    

Likes (3)