Cary Audio Design | Nighthawk | Big Boom Comes in a Small Package

Big Boom Comes in a
Small Package By Arlen Schweiger
loudspeaker products are en
vogue, and even though my living
room won’t win any style points
our nightly viewing in it is set up
with 5.1 surround sound. I was
eager to see how a compact subwoofer such as Niles Audio’s SW8
would fare teamed with KEF’s
excellent T Series loudspeakers.
I liked this subwoofer right
from its unboxing. The handsome
piano-black cabinet measures
just 12 inches cubed but packs
an 8-inch active driver and two 8-inch passive radiators, which Niles says delivers frequency response of 36Hz to 200Hz. A traditional grille, with a Niles logo badge, covers
the front-firing woofer while the dual side radiators are exposed.
My sub placement is toward the back of a sidewall, mostly out of convenience (coax
runs through the basement and back up to a Sony A/V receiver in front). I connected
the power cable, plugged into the LFE ports and set the turn-on mode to “signal sense”
rather than “always on,” mainly for electricity’s sake. (Niles also accommodates Cat 5
and wireless transmission, for installation flexibility.) I set the crossover around 80Hz, just
under Niles’ labeling of 100Hz as “normal,” and the phase control to 0.
After fiddling with the crossover and phase knobs during initial listening, I went
back to the initial settings. I found the subwoofer, which handles 300 watts RMS and
1,200 watts peak, delivered tremendous punch for its size. I turned it on during an NBA
playoff broadcast on ESPN HD and it thumped hard as the home crowd clap-chanted,
adding palpable intensity to the action.
One thing the SW8 does not need is much gas. I had the volume knob around 11
o’clock (not quite halfway between minimum and max) and found myself moving it to
10, and then 9 in some applications. My Netflix-streaming Blu-ray player, for instance,
comes across louder than cable broadcasts through my AVR. While streaming HD
Breaking Bad episodes via Netflix, the SW8 meshed really well with the 2-channel audio to deliver nice fullness to Bryan Cranston’s deep baritone voice and extra thwack
to the opening/closing credits music.
I thought the bottom end added similar lush undertones to the soundtrack of CBS
broadcasts of The Mentalist and TNT’s Perception, creating greater prominence to the
background music and a more complete, enhanced viewing experience.
The SW8 does a good job of adding weight to round out audio, without overwhelming it. On concert DVDs like Phish’s Live in Utica, the SW8 produced firm low end
without bloat to Jon Fishman’s kickdrum and Mike Gordon’s dark bass grooves.
The boom begins to muddy a little bit at loud levels, but there’s no need to crank it —
several scenes in The Iron Giant, for example, like when he cannonballs into the lake, shook
plenty through the SW8. I only wish there was a remote so I didn’t have to manually adjust
the sub’s fluctuations in my system when switching sources. Based on what I heard, this
sub could handle larger rooms while maintaining clean, solid bass. If your project involves
space restrictions or aesthetic demands, the versatile SW8 would be a sound choice.
MSRP is $599,
Control App Can Be Customized
Home Automation, Inc.’s (HAI) HTX2
app is available in the iTunes App Store
and it enables installers to set up A/V and
control systems that include streamlined
user interfaces. HAI’s interface templates
and Mobile Designer software can be
used for the creation and customization
of GUI remote pages to control Blu-ray
players, HDTVs, A/V receivers, preamp/
processors, projectors, whole-house A/V
controllers and cable/satellite boxes.
Installers can set up control through serial
ports, IR ports, IP and SPDT relays, and
the HTX2 also comes with more than
300,000 codes built in.
Headphone Amp Drives Low
Impedance Headphones
Cary Audio’s Audio Electronics brand
introduced its Nighthawk headphone
amplifier designed to drive high-performance, but typically low-impedance,
headphones. The solid-state amplifier
utilizes a Class A circuit design and its
internal parts are all mounted on a thickgauge fiberglass circuit board. The amp’s
front end employs monolithic FETs and a
fully buffered output stage that is said to
operate with low distortion. Audio Electronics specifies the amp to work with
headphones ranging in impedances from
20 ohms to 600 ohms.
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