Having decided to upgrade from my Combo system to a "good" system, I was having trouble with the selection of equipment. The availability in India is limited to selected brands from the grey market, and as such, audiophile equipment weighs heavy on pocket with or without taxes.
After some thought and reading through the technical specifications, I settled for a Philips DVD 625K DVD player, a couple of OFC gold-plated interconnects, an extremely modest Yamaha AX-396 stereo integrated amplifier and a pair of OFC speaker cables. The choice of 625K was really due to its 192 KHz DAC (I read a bit about “aliasing” and “Nyquist limit”), and the Yamaha AX-396 was selected because of Yamaha’s claim of natural sound, my slender budget and the small size of my listening room.
With this set up, I hoped to get a neutral sound, if not an exceptional one, and all that is left now is to select a couple of decent matching speakers. Having been informed that the weakest link in an audio set up is usually the speakers, I tried to be a perfectionist within my limited budget. For about a month or so, I auditioned several Indian speaker brands available in Bangalore, including Sonodyne, Torvin Pro-FX, some models of Onkyo, Wharfedale, Yamaha and JBL. I also did some information gathering about little known brands like Pulz, Trendz, Woodstock, Telome, Pandam, ARC, DNM etc., and explored the possibility of getting speakers made by freelancers.
In the process, I saw that while many used quality components (imported drivers of Vifa/ Peerless/Scan Speak, and crossovers), they could explain neither as to why sometimes speakers with high quality components sound awful, nor as to what makes a speaker sound accurate and musical.
I am thankful to an ICICI bank lifestyle website on audio for suggesting to me the brand called Lithos Acoustics. I used a search-engine with the string “Lithos speakers” and stumbled upon their excellently designed website, www.lithosindia.com. It was a revelation reading its contents, and I subsequently spoke to their Chief, Mr.Rajiv D’Souza over phone. After asking me about my listening room size, the amplifier specifications, choice of music, and whether I prefer a two channel stereo or home-theatre setup, the suggestion from him was to go for Lithos Studio-1 speakers. When I complained that I will have to buy these speakers without ever listening to them, as Bangalore had no Lithos Acoustics dealer, I was assured that if I was not satisfied with their sound, I could return them at a nominal restocking cost. Once my cheque was encashed, the speakers were promptly dispatched. Thus started my tryst with Lithos Studio-1 speakers!
Keeping the height of the seating in my listening room and the height of the speaker itself (15”) in mind, I calculated that I need stands 31” high. Such stands are not readily available, even in a city like Bangalore, and a friend of mine who is into stainless-steel ran around for a week to get them fabricated. Each stand was in three pieces, and my friend was innovative enough to use oil-seals, meant for vehicle gear-boxes, at the joints to remove the possibility of steel vibrating. The footing of the stand again had rubber gasket along its contact edges. The upper 10”X10” platform was provided with thin rubber sheet to prevent vibration entering the stands. The speakers themselves were provided with anti-vibration feet.
The manual that came with the speakers was self-contained and precise, and according to the instructions I made all the necessary connections and toed in the speaker-stands.
To test the sound, I played an audio CD, Abida Parveen’s Kabir, on the Philips player using the CD-direct switch of the amplifier. The effect was breath-taking. Abida’s full-lunged rendering of Kabir’s Sufi verses came out with great transient attack. I tried an acoustic guitar CD, Finger Dance by Billy Mc Laughlin, and I could hear sounds which were hitherto not audible. I followed it up with a Hindusthani classical vocal rendering by Parveen Sultana, and the sound was mellifluent. The experience continues. The most recent add-on to my setup is a Worldspace satellite radio receiver.
On a whole, I find the sound of these speakers extremely pleasing without the slightest hint of artificiality, and I believe this is what they call accuracy and musicality. Their imaging is very precise, and sometimes I could hear cymbals and gongs much left or right to the speakers’ position. They have good bass, not as much as a subwoofer, but enough for quite and relaxed listening sessions. With my Yamaha AX-396 amplifier, the speakers sound their very best at about one quarter of the volume knob with CD-direct switch on. The speakers do not need equalization. The price is not heavy on the pocket, and the construction of the speaker is solid.
This review is for the NOA-1 speakers made by Lithos, which I bought around a year ago. As I continue to listen to them, my fondness for them increases!
They are clearly the best made Indian speakers that I have heard (other than Cadence of course, but we're talking about a different price range there). But I definitely did not buy them out of patriotism- I had compared them with the better known foreign brands, and I found that if you strip the hype away, these speakers sound comparable if not better than speakers in a higher price range. For jazz specifically, their clarity, musicality and sound stage is outstanding. Rock doesnt sound bad either!
I do not consider myself an audiophile yet, beause i am yet to hear the best everyone talks about. But I do know that two years ago I bought the Bose AM5 series, which I hated from the word go. They sounded boomy in small spaces, nop attention to detail at all and basically lacked presence. After two years of bearing with the bose, I quite by chance got to hear of Lithos. A totally new name in the Indian Industry as far as audio is concerned. Not wanting to burn my fingers again as I did with the Bose, I requested the dealer if I could sample them for a week. I never gave them back. These speakers are simply music to my ears. They use the entry level high end drivers (used for Keff-Coda series), "Peerless". But as all audiophiles know the heart of the speaker is in the Crossover design. One Tweeter and two 5 inch woofers are used to create this "MUSICAL" sound as I put it. Not only does it sound so musical but it's ability to dissappear in my room is astonishing, althought they are almost 4 feet high. The imaging is uncanny and hard to describe until you hear. This speaker is a must buy for all the audiophile enthusiasts in India who want to give the Indian High-end market a boost. AND just because it is Indian doesn't mean that it lacks superior technology. Remember Speaker technology hasn't changed since the first speaker was manufactured, and till today the Dynamic Driver is used to make the the best Speakers in the world (Wilson audio, Thiel, B&W,etc.) If one wants to get a good demo of this product, A new showroom opening near Rhythm House has opened, Name I am not too sure off. Go hear it and decide for yourself and give your review.
I picked up a used pair of B&W 602 S1's for my son at $250 and have 1 week to return them. They seem to have a slightly bloated bottom end and recessed treble. They sound better when I stuffed the front ports with foam.
My question is- How different are the 602 S2's? The store I bought them ... Read More »
I need some help to see if I can correct the highs in my B&W DM 602 S2. I can not stand the bright highs anymore. I have another set of bookshelf speakers, Monitor Audio Silver S2 which has excellent highs. The B&W s are harsh and there isn't way I can enjoy them. If I can not correct it w ... Read More »
I have a Denon 3802 receiver and sapphire st 2 speakers ,Mirage 790 and polk rt8. I also have a yamaha 700 watt receiver.I have a pair of B&W 602 speakers that I am looking at for 300 including a center channel in the same line. I don't know that much about B&W and want to know if this a good deal. ... Read More »
I have achance to buy a Onkyo Sr 602 7.1 channel receiver to replace a Sony DE925 for 169$. Is the upgrade worth it? Will I notice much difference? I wish I could take it home and compare, but as this is from a pawnshop, I can't. Thanks for any info.
FlippoRead More »