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EXPIRED - FOR SALE: Nearfield Acoustic PIPEEDREAMS Model 21 - Built for Harry Pearson's TAS Super Component Review (PRIC
Harry Pearson's Personal Speakers! $78,000 retail. Truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
These are THE actual Reference Model 21's, Nearfield Acoustic Pipedreams with 2 DeathCharge Subwoofers, built for Harry Pearson and reviewed in "THE ABSOLUTE SOUND as a "Super Component." Rear gold-plated designation stating the same (see photos). Phenomenal speakers that I've enjoyed immensely! Having owned many of the world's finest speakers, I've never heard musical reproduction that compares to these beautiful speakers.Standing almost 8 feet tall, the soundstage is phenomenal. Cabinets on both towers and subs are in great condition. NO FLAKING, DAMAGE OR DENTS. These units are heavy and require the buyer to arrange transportation.
This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Only selling due to downsizing. If you have the space for these beauties and you are seeking the best musical reproduction money can buy...look no further!
JUST 1 OF MANY GLOWING REVIEWS...
The Pipedreams "Reference 21" speaker system is the top-of-the-line offering from a brash, three-year-old Tennessee manufacturer, Nearfield Acoustics, whose Mission is to build the world's best speaker system, and topple pretenders into a scramble for the runner-up position.
I will describe this remarkable system in detail and then reveal how the PipeDreams, finely tuned, have spawned a provocative speculation relating to the set-up of a biamped reference audio system. There will be many nay-sayers, and there may even ensue the kind of establishment-snit evoked by Galileo when he dropped two unequal weights from the top of the leaning tower (but I am getting ahead of myself).
The pipe dream of PipeDreams had its genesis at Melos Audio more than 10 years ago. And, not surprisingly, the concept for this all-out line-source design sprang from the active and creative mind of Mark Porzilli. When not designing electronics, or exploring the wilds of Alaska (he did, often), Porzilli built several PipeDreams prototypes using a multitude of two-inch Sawafuji planar drivers (meant for use in cars) coupled with ribbon tweeters from Pioneer. The crossovers were rough; cabinetry was rougher.
I recall my first audition of one of these prototype systems at Mark's studio apartment in New Jersey, The speakers, which had just been assembled, were spaced barely four feet apart, and positioned so far into the room, that there was barely enough space for a listener or two. This, truly, was a "nearfield" set-up, with the greater part of the 30-foot room behind the speaker. The woofers were back there somewhere, along with the bed, the kitchen table and a pair of caged rabbits, munching on carrots, indifferent to the event at hand.
Mark fired up the system with Stravinsky's "Firebird." The gain was set high, for dramatic effect, I guess. With the first bass drum hit, clouds of white polyfill exploded fro m the ports of the woofers, (in his haste to com plete the project, Mark had forgotten to use screens to block the ports.) Without a thought of pausing to make the repair, Mark cranked the gain to higher and higher levels, and more and more of the white stuff flew from the open ports, piling up on the floor. All the while Mark was dancing about, arms waving, urging the musicians onward. At the climax, the last bass drum hit nearly emptied the woofer cavities. We were left marooned in our manmade snowfield, laughing uncontrollably.
Those heady days were to end as financial woes swept over Mark's enterprise. Enter Craig Oxford, on a white horse, to carry the project forward. He founded Nearfield Acoustics with a determination to refine and perfect Porzilli's design, and bring it to market. Thus was born the PipeDreams system as we know it today. We will review the latest production model.
Now, I invite you to regard the PipeDreams system. Gape at the front columns, Kubrick-like monoliths (this is the year 2001, eh?) standing over eight feet tall, and sporting (count 'em) 21 four-inch mid-range drivers and 42 tweeters, arranged as a line source, for each channel.
Then examine the quartet of Depth Charge woofer cylinders, each with a pair of 18-inch drivers in push-pull configuration. One cannot help but be intimidated (it is possible, using a high-speed Cray computer, to tote up the number of drivers: 134, I believe, but who is counting?).
These most recent production models sport a three-way switch at the rear of each column, allowing tweeter level adjustment over a 1dB range (a helpful room-tuning feature in a system as dynamic and revealing as this one where 0.5 dB increments are easily discerned). A sophisticated and effective phase adjustable stand-alone electronic crossover completes the system. As world-class speakers go, it is possible to spend twice the amount, but for the purposes of this review we will resist the temptation to treat this as a "budget system."
George Bischoff, Nearfield's expert in the eastern U.S., along with Mark Moschella of Westfield, N.J.'s SoundStage, a nearby PipeDreams dealer, showed up with the necessary tools to effect the installation. Three hours later, the job was complete. One critical element of the system was missing, however. The bottom plates of the double-decker front column base plate assembly were not included in the shipment. No problem, we agreed we'll use just the smaller plates for the time being. (I was to learn much later how important the larger plates were to the sound of the PipeDreams system.)
In order to slide the 300 pound stele-like front columns across the polished wood floor of my 17 by 26 by 9 foot listening room, we affixed a 1/8-inch thick layer of felt to the bottom of the single base plates. That worked beautifully. The four foot high woofers (each weighing 130 pounds) could be easily walked about using their three wooden feet as pivots. Using the continuously ad justable electronic phase-adjustment feature of the George Bischoff/Mark Porzilli-designed crossover, and adding a pair of Melos 400 watt HAT1000's (now re-manufactured by Melos Audio Restoration Inc. into a superb sounding all-tube design promising bullet-proof reliability), Wadia 270 transport, Wadia 27ix DAC and a stereo bass amp that would be more at home at your nearby rave dance club, we had music.
So the design, as originally conceived by Mark Porzilli, and developed by Craig Oxford and George Bischoff of Nearfield Acoustics of Nashville, Tenn., builds on a collection of classic principles of linesource-array speaker design, executes them to the nines adding a host of clever proprietary design elements to deal with the bugaboo of nodal aberrations, adds ultra solid construction and bracing throughout, and launches Nearfield acoustics toward the Holy Grail of high-end audio.
Aside from the ability of a properly executed linesource to generate a convincing stage of sound, Pipe Dreams owe much of their ability to effortlessly produce awesome sound levels without apparent distortion, to the multitude of drivers, none of which need work very hard to create very clean, very high sound levels. Driver excursion is nearly nil, helping to keep distortion at bay, and speeding transients to your ears. (Not unexpectedly, break-in time is extended. The drivers continue to improve for months.)
Crossover points are neatly removed from the most critical listening areas by specifically designing the midrange drivers to operate from 65 to 5,500 Hz, a range of over six octaves.
Clearly this system is world-class in two vital areas - imaging and sound-stage. Many competing systems offer precise imaging and a wide sound stage, coupled with goo d depth and layering. Yet the PipeDreams reproduce musical instruments and voices with a flesh and blood reality that contrasts with the pop-up two-dimensional images of so much of the competition. Not only do the in struments and voices seem to be organic thr ee-dimensional elements, but the space between them is filled with an airy plasma that suggests life itself.
This remarkable effect seems to survive even when wires and components are swapped and the system is fiddled with in ways that approach abuse. (However, do not expect to judge th e PipeDreams by listening to the columns without the woofers. The superlative staging of the PipeDreams is not optimized until the woofers and columns are fully deployed and phase-adjusted,)
Furthermore, the excellent stage and imaging of the PipeDreams are not limited to a seated, centered "sweet spot." Stand if you like. Or plop yourself down almost anywhere in the area forward of the speakers and observe the imaging. It's downright eerie, for example, to sit to the right of the right-most column and sense the entire width of the stage, presented as though you were seated on the right side of the hall. Not only is the perspective accurately presented, but one is able to peek into spaces behind instruments not "visible' from the sweet spot. We experience an audio hologram, but unlike a hologram, the lifelike qualities of the instruments and voices, referred to earlier, are preserved. (I confess to often choosing a seat to one side, just for the listening pleasure.) Invite your friends; everyone can enjoy this speaker system at the same time. Oh, and did I mention that the slender profiles of the Pipes contribute to their dropping out visually, a feat they match in the audio realm as well. Properly set-up, there is a total disconnect between the physical presence of the Pipes and the sonic picture they convey. What a treat!
Subtleties of imaging surely vary from room to room and are dependent on the electronics and set-up involved. I was particularly impressed by the in stallation at the SoundStage showroom. There, a VAC (Valve Amplification Company) Signature 70/70 dual mono amp produced some of the best imaging I've heard from the Pipes. Proper instrument size w as maintained throughout.
PipeDreams tend to place the music behind the front columns with exceptional depth, width and height. Those expecting the speakers to propel Brittany Spears forward to perform a lap dance while throbbing to "Oops, I Did it Again," will be frustrated.
So far, so good. But there is more to assess than imaging and stage. How do the "Pipes" rate when it comes to transient response, overall balance, dynamics and such? To be forthright, the Pipes were unexpectedly dark at first. Let 'em break in, I thought. Two weeks went by. Not much improvement. I called George Bischoff. He reminded me to reserve judgment until the larger base elements were in place. (Remember, the larger slabs that form the bottom of the base unit assembly did not arrive with the speakers.) "OK," I said, but I was still skeptical about the benefit of the extra mass in the base making much difference.
The lower base uni ts arrived, 70-pound aluminum slabs finished in a black lacquer that would do justice to a Rolls-Royce. They were bolted forthwith to the smaller base elements already attached to the front columns. The extra mass did improve the sound, Yet, after several days of listening, I was not entirely satisfied. Again, I called George. He urged me to use the convenient screw-down spikes that are provided with the large base elements, instead of allowing the columns to rest on the felt pad. To keep the spikes from infiltrating the recently refinished oak flooring, we used felt-backed quarters (the new Delaware coins work best?).
Suddenly it was all there. Dynamics - top to bottom continuity - transients to startle even the most jaded audiophile - everything from the plunk of the most delicate string to the jolting snap of a world-class drummer's rim shot. As impressive as the low end of this system can be in my listening room, it was out-done in this respect by the Wadia people at the 2001 Las Vegas CES. They used Jeff Rowland's Model 12 amps, top and bottom, to achieve the best slam and low-end extension I've heard from the Pipes.
For sheer drama, latch onto "Poem of Chinese Drums" (Naxos), or get Burmester Demo Disk #3 with the drums and a lot of other good stuff. Strap yourself in, crank up the gain and prepare for an astounding audio experience. The impact, the tautness, and the attack of the drums energize the entire room and house. To keep our china cabinet from self-destructing, the cabinet must rest on isolation blocks, and a dense container of Dap must be jammed between it and the wall. With those improvisations in place, one can feel the floor, the room and even the stout wooden framework of the sofa pulse in sympathy with the percussion. I've experienced this sensation before, at a live concert of Baba Olatungi's group, augmented by eighty (that's 801) accomplished students of the great Baba, each armed with a drum. In the wooden floored hall at the summer home of Omega Institute in Rhine-beck, New York, the sound of nearly 90 drums almost certainly was picked up by seismometers in Murmansk.
But make no mistake, PipeDreams are more than a slam-bang system meant to impress your friends. A great strength of the PipeDreams system is its ability to reproduce the dynamics of microdetail so essential to the enjoyment of any good recording. I am now listening to Music of the Spanish Renaissance (Naxos 8.550614). Voice (Shirley Rumsey), vihuelas, lute and Renaissance guitar are reproduced exquisitely, with the airy decay of each plucked string giving one an aural picture of Saint Andrew's Church in Toddington, Gloucestershire where it was recorded.
At the noisy end of the sound spectrum , listen to "The Coal Train/Stimela" from Hugh Masekela's Hope CD, (Triloka Records TR8023-2 or cut #9 on Burmester CD 111). The thunderous depiction of the steam engine is grist for the Pipe Dreams mill. It helps that the Melos Audio Restoration amps have the gewalt to get us through this segment without clipping. The result on the PipeDreams is a room-shaking, but beautifully defined presentation without diminishment of the stage depth, width or height. On this same cut, only moments later, the Melos Audio Restoration / PipeDreams combination reveals the muted spoken voices of distant musicians. Each of these voices is positioned laterally as well as front to-back on the stage. Such remarkable subtlety contrasts with the sturm und drang of the train - all on the same CD, within seconds of e ach other. The PipeDreams breezing through it without a whimper. Wow!
May I digress for a moment? Reviews of audio equipment, this one included, use live music as the ultimate reference. But let's be honest - audio is as much about sound as it is about music, (You heard it in this confessional first.) Lately, in conversations with Arnie Balgalvis, my fellow reviewer and club member, we have privately admitted to each other that some of the pleasure of this hobby comes out of the visceral pleasure of sound. In fact, I overheard a young woman recently at our local July 4 fireworks display; complain that the booms were not loud enough. "I want to feel them in my chest," she demanded. And so it is with audio systems. Admit it or not, most of us get a rush from sonics - pure, clean sound with well defined and generous fundamentals.
I continue to tinker with the PipeDreams system. The 95-dB sensitivity of the columns telegraph even the most subtle system changes. You'll hear the rich and slightly forward qualities of the popular Harmonic Technology's speaker cable and interconnects. You'll notice the somewhat leaner but considerably more dynamic, transparent and detailed qualities of Nordost's SPM Reference speaker cable when paired with their Quattro Fil interconnects.
You'll especially notice PipeDreams' ability to define the upper bass areas produced by the mid range drivers of the front columns (down to 65 Hz ), essential to producing the transient smack of all manner and sort of lower bass material. (I can almost hear, in my mind's ear only, the rich, spacious d ynamics of Nordost's new Valhalla product. If only I could get my hands on that stuff.) Want to play with Tip-Toes; differences will be immediately apparent. If you want to mess with power cords and power-conditioning equipment, you'll quickly pick the best (MIT's "Z" system gear now leading the pack). And, of course, deficiencies among interconnects, amps, transports, DACs, etc. are revealed all too clearly for the comfort of many manufacturers.
Now, only days from going to press, I am lucky to be able to borrow a pair of Rowland Model 12 monoblocks, the same amp mentioned earlier as being used to great advantage in the Wadia room at CES. Driving the front columns, they performed with aplomb. However, when they were installed to drive the woofers, assigning the Melos Audio Restoration HAT 1000s to drive the columns, I experienced an epiphany. For months, the PipeDreams have been hinting at greatness. Yet, I couldn't get all of their virtues in play at the same time. Suddenly, like the moon passing to exactly block the sun while primitives (and the sophisticated) stare in awe, I experienced a celestial experience and for the first time realized that a bass amp, in a world-class bi-amp system, plays a much more important role than previously thought. (I can almost see teeth clench as my next paragraph is read.)
I am convinced that, in a biamped system with taut woofers and a precise physical relationship set between the elements of the system, the effects of the woofer amp can sometimes be perceived octaves above the bass. To date, I have tried four bass amps, and between them, I can hear differences in the character of soprano voices, the pluck of the string of a guitar, the air around instruments. Furthermore, these differences are not subtle. I am coming to believe that it is necessary to exploit the symbiotic relationship amps have with speakers since they may, collectively, affect the sound over an important part of the audio spectrum. Gone are the days of throwing a clumsy muscle-amp into the bass area. The bass amp, in the words of Muhammad Ali, must "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." The bass amp must produce generous amounts of current and it must have finesse.
Thus far, several persons whose ears I trust, and who pooh-poohed this notion when I first presented it to them, have come by to hear it for themselves. No dissenters. All were baffled, and groped for explanations. What business does a bass amplifier, most of whose energy is confined well below 100 Hertz by an ever-vigilant crossover, have in profoundly influencing the character of frequencies two or three octaves higher?
George Bischoff offers what might be part of an explanation, drawn from his experience as a recording engineer, He suggests that micro-detail from the bass area is crucial to the proper reproduction of ambient information of the recording venue. The taut PipeDreams woofers, he contends, can reproduce this micro-detail in the bass, and thereby contribute to the quality I describe. George's comments seem apt as far as they go, but may not, I feel, sufficiently address the apparent effect of the woofer amp on these important frequencies. In conversations with friend Arnie, another explanation emerged: Given the ability of the Pipedream's "depth charges" to reproduce micro-detail in the bass area, it is reasonable to assume that they might also do a good job of reproducing all manner and form of distortion (harmonic, intermodulation, phase and otherwise) from the bass amplifier as well. The harmonics of these distortions, however low their level, could extend to these midrange frequencies and corrupt and color the sonic character of the system in this very important area. If this distortion is harmonic in nature, then it will be precisely where voices are pitched and the ear extremely sensitive. The result will be a profound change in the intrinsic sonic character of the system.
Two interesting explanations, but my hunch is that more will be said on the subject. Speculation and constructive comments from our readers are welcome.
In any case, it is likely that a buyer of PipeDreams will need to consider his choice of both amplifiers carefully if he wishes to optimize he system. (And remember to readjust phase when you change amps.) Yeah, I can hear the groans out there, as you realize that the old boat anchor bass amp you have in the closet may not do the job. Oh, what the hell, do you run your Ferrari on Exxon regulr?
Do I have some reservations? Yes. The system would be more user-friendly if the crossover were easier to set up, and if it would accommodate both balanced and single ended interconnects. (Mod's in the works, I understand.) Additionally, because recording engineers have widely varying ideas of what a correct low-end level should be, I would welcome a finely-calibrated remote control for woofer level (with digital read-out, if possible, so I could make appropriate notations on each of my favorite CDs).
And, hey guys, an owner's manual would be appreciated, too, including suggestions for various speaker configurations, circuit diagrams and step-by-step instruction for crossover phasing (leather binding not necessary). My early production woofers evinced a problem with the veneer. I am assured by the manufacturer that a production change has addressed that glitch.
So, in sum, where does that leave us? As of now, the PipeDreams are nothing short of stunning, both in terms of appearance and sonics. With a careful selection of the best of present-day components and accessories, they can be superb.
As I become more and more aware of the excellence of the system, I can hear the Pipes calling out to the designers of electronics, digital, analog, or whatever. "Catch up, catch up," they say. And when the rest of the industry produces better and better components, the Pipes will be there to show us their glory.
The Audiophile Voice
Jan 12, 17 3:01pm
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