Let's just get to the bottom line -- these speakers are flat out awesome! I purchased the natural wood color and they look fantastic in the living room. When people come over to visit, they are very impressed with how they look. Then I give them a demo and they are blown away. These speakers have a very wide sounstage with phenomenal detail and pinpoint imaging. One can hear every stoke of string instruments. Cymbals sound true to life, etc. I could go on, but I think you get the point. They are so good, I'm considering buying other Norh products -- I don't care what it is -- amp, preamp, more speakers, etc., because if they're anything like these speakers, I know I'm getting a tremendous value for the money.
Oddly enough, this post appears to be the only one on the Synthetic Marble version of the Norh 5.1.
First off, I had waited until the speakers were well and truly "burnt in" before posting a review. I have heard about Norh's need to play about 200 hours minimum to run-in. They were delivered in July 2003 (superb packing, speakers were moulded into three-inch deep foam), and were then shipped off to Cairo, Egypt where I am now based, and thereafter, I subjected them to daily 3-hour plays of everything from rock to jazz to orchestral music at decent levels (9-10 o'clock on the amp volume knob - not that this is meant to be any objective standard mind you!).
The SM 5.1's, as befits their reputation, look nothing like any speaker I have every owned or ever will. I have the White SM model (which took Norh 3 weeks to make)and it is stunning, a little off-white with light pinkish swirls in the material. The four feet are wide, as reported and speaker stand top-plates have to be as wide as a normal A4 size piece of paper to be safe. But you will NOT want to put them on normal stands. It will not do justice to the visuals of the speakers. I had a local company make a pair of dense, heavy columns out of plaster 60 cms high. The ported rear of the speakers are also longer than they look in photos, so make sure to have ample "breathing room" behind them. Mine stand well into my listening/reception area.
The reports about the burn-in period are all true. Before the 100-hour mark, the speakers sounded a little slow. The bass was tubby and bass extension was poor. I did comparison testing with my Epos ES14, not a bass champion by any standard, and the SM 5.1s lost out in speed, pace, musicality and even bass definition. I shipped them off to Cairo to hook them up to the setup I had there, and waited for the sound to "mature".
In Cairo, I was running the system on an Optimum Audio Tube amp with 4 KT88s putting out 60 watts in ultralinear and 38 in triode mode. This was fed by a Marantz SACD 8260 SACD player, big, beefily built with a lovely open sound. I have just added a turntable to the set up.
First off, after the burn in period and some experimentation, a few characteristics of the SM 5.1s became apparent:
i) They LOVE POWER. I initially ran them using the triode mode of the OA amp. The sound was all tube - liquid midrange and a nice, vocal-friendly presentation with the mids thrown slightly forward. The bass started slowly to assert itself after the 50 hour mark. Imaging was first class right off the mark though and was clearly superior to the Epos. However, I felt that the sound of the Norhs was still a little too polite, recessed in the higher frequencies and lacking ultimate punch in the lower. Rock and dance tracks were nice ... but didn't force me to jump out of my seat to boogie like rock and dance should. Then one day, I switched the amp to the ultralinear mode ... 60 watts up from 38 watts. I also popped out the grilles. The difference, in a word was ... WOW! It may sound unbelievable, but the music came "on-line" at that point. The extra power made the speakers more open and greatly expanded the soundstage. Bass became well-extended, tight and tuneful. Details I had never noticed before in my tracks started showing up. It became a speaker which matched the precision of US speakers like the Thiels (which I love for the way they throw out 100% of the information in each song, but which I hate for being so obsessive and clinical about it) and the pace and musicality of Britboxes like the Naims and Neats. It sounded like ... an old Rogers LS3/5A with bass, and a little more speed. Highs are now extended, Bass is full and punchy and the mids and soundstage are brilliant. BUT, they have to be fed. Switching back to triode feels like sticking them in a felt box. I recommend at least 50 watts of tube amplification and 100 watts of solid-state to really do them justice.
ii)They really like analogue. I haven't really tried the norhs out with any solid-state amplification of note besides the 35-watt Naims, but with the OA-1 tubes, the speakers really sing. I expect norh feels the same way, seeing as how they are putting out these budget tube amps now to drive their products. But remember point 1. above. No 9-watt triodes for these babies! With my new turntable, through the tube amps - these US$500 speakers beat every system I have ever owned. They are musically enthralling with low-key small scale pieces, but with enough weight and dynamics to play any kind of music you want.
Most reports say they are great speakers for home cinema. I got these for a stereo setup and they have beaten speakers more than 4 times their price.
At US$1000 they would be well worth the money. At US$500, its no contest. The only component in my chain I wouldnt need to upgrade for a long time.
I posted a review about three years ago shortly after purchasing my nOhr 5.1 system. I still love the whole system, although I hope to upgrade to 9.0s within the next year or so. I have demo'd these speakers for several people in the DC area, and I wanted to put forth the offer again. I AM still in DC (Arlington, VA), I never moved to Chicago, so the demo would have to be in the DC area.
I am always pleased by the reaction my speakers get, both to the excellent quality of the sound and the unusual but aesthetically pleasing look. In fact, most people don't even realize they're speakers until I point it out! Also, I have my rear 4.0s suspended from the wall behind the sofa, and it's a pretty simple setup if anyone is interested.
I have had my wood 5.1s for a few months now, coupled with the nOrh SE9. I sat and listened to Diana Krall's 'Live in Paris' last night and today I'm prompted to write this review. I played 'Look of Love' over.... and over... and over. I must point out that my system is the epitome of simplicity. It consists of two 'natural' wood 5.1s, the nOrh SE9 and a Pioneer DV-400 DVD player for a transport. I use Monster cable, but I doubt that it makes much of a difference.
I live in quite a large apartment but the SE9 does a good job of powering the 5.1s to listening levels that are enough to disturb my neighbors. Bass isn't wall shaking, but I don't believe it is meant to be! 'Natural' is the word that springs to mind. My musical tastes are wide and varied - I listen to everything from Placido Domingo to Linkin Park to Eminem and the 5.1s have faithfully reproduced everything I've thrown at them. What can I say? I'm impressed. No doubt there are better speakers out there but for the money I doubt you will find a better sounding or better quality product anywhere. Period. Kudos to Michael Barnes and his friendly and efficient staff at nOrh for producing these honest products. Highly recommended.
Would anybody like top help a newbie? I have been using a very crap pair of 2.1 speakers. Today I bought a set of 5.1 speakers with subwoofer and an amp. My soundcard is an Asus Xonar D2X (I am using Windows 8). The speakers and subwoofer are Tannoy TFX 5.1. The amp is a Sony STR-DH520
Subwo ... Read More »
I have met my match on researching angled LCR speakers for my new 5.1 system. I know all of the pros and cons here and will be doing my best to mitigate some of them, but I don't have a choice on placement. The wall with the TV is a plaster wall which is in front of brick wall - no ... Read More »
Hi all, I am thinking of getting a blu ray player for Christmas and hooking it up to my Onkyo txds-656, (which I LOVE), via optical coax, question is will the Onkyo txds-656 play the blu ray in 5.1 via the optial coax or any other connection, or am I out of luck?Read More »
I want to listen Dolby digital and DTS 5.1 digital surround channels (from DVD movies) through headphone, may I ask what best brand/model I can buy?
I purchased before Sennheiser Lucas, which I can listen through headphone Dolby Surround Pro-Logic surround channels from DVD, but I want dig ... Read More »
I recently bought the Mirage MX 5.1 home theatre system. It sounds terrific overall except the subwoofer is working at minimal volume. It has two RCA jacks on the back of it, one L and one R. On my Denon reciever, it has a single subwoofer jack [B][I]and[/I][/B] a L and R jack as well. When I pl ... Read More »