A friend has an Atom and is looking for a pair of small bookshelf speakers with good midrange. Understandably we cannot expect good bass from small speakers, but this would be a bonus. Music genre she mostly listens to is classical music.
She is looking at either the Proac Tablette 10, Proac DB1, or Falcon LS35a.
With a room size of roughly 12 X 14 feet, do you think the Atom would be able to properly drive these speakers at normal listening levels (definitely no head banging sound levels here ). The speakers will be placed on stands.
What would be your other recommendations, if any? Let’s keep the mid-woofer a maximum of 6 inches.
The fact that a speaker is small does not necessarily make it easy to drive, and sealed box speakers such as BBC monitor type designs can be good examples of this, so I would be careful in choosing such a speaker to use with an Atom.
I used a pair of Naim N-Sats with my Atom for a while, and they were OK, but so much better when driven by a more powerful amp. So my guess is that of the three speakers you mention, the ported Proac DB1s might be worth considering, but most importantly, try to get a home demo and keep an open mind about what does and doesn’t work well.
I found the Spendor 4/5s had a better bass than the ProAc Tab 10s when I had both pairs. Also found the Tab 10s harder to drive.
If you want bass then Guru Juniors have it. I auctioned these again the Neat Iotas at Tom Tom a few years back and I knew within 10 seconds that the Juniors were coming home with me. Although the Juniors are no longer available if your friend can wait until the spring Guru have its replacement the Guru 8 coming out and a slightly bigger model the Guru 12 as well. Should be something special and worth the wait.
Hi @fdm, I run my Atom with Neat Iotas in my small office/bedroom. My choice was limited because the speakers had to be wall-mountable. But I thoroughly enjoy the combination – it’s very musical and engaging. However, it is not the last word in refinement, so I’m not sure I’d pick that pairing for classical listening. I do listen to a lot of classical music, but that’s on the main system, which is much more refined and analytical. I have also heard the Atom making great sounds with Dynaudio Emit 20s, but again the emphasis was on fun rather than refinement.
I believe the Tab 10s have some BBC speaker heritage in their DNA, so are likely to be more revealing. My guess is that they would work well with the Atom for classical music. I have not heard the combination myself but there are forum users who have, or had, that setup. If at all possible, I would suggest your friend auditions the speakers before purchase, preferably at home.
The Atom should work very well with your shortlisted speakers - all very good in my view. If they are going to be used for classical music (mostly), then the DB1 might be preferable, but considering they would need some more clearance from walls and corners, if the space allows? The Tabs should be the easiest to drive and easiest to position quite close to walls (many even say they in fact sound best this way) but you may find them a bit less convincing and lean with more complex classical music. The vocal reproduction of the Falcon is best and DB1 would be slightly better than the Tabs.
May be you could also consider the Falcon Q7 which is pretty much the same as the Falcon LS3/5a (very slightly deeper cabinets) but has a bit more bass which may help with classical music in particular? Falcons can live fairly close to walls too.
As far as driving these particular speakers, I would not be worried with any of them with the Atom in a relatively smaller room.
I do agree about the size, very much so, however don’t think it comes to sealed design only. The usual small monitor models from Falcon, Spendor and ProAc Tabs are not really challenging while Harbeth (very much), ATC and others need more amplification. Sealed design as such should not deter from combining with the Atom, it could be a great combination.
@fdm You will get a number of different opinions and the only real way to decide which speakers to go for is to listen to them in-person. My opinion, having home demo’d an Atom with all three speakers you mention plus a number of others is:
I’ll get the controversial one out of the way first - the Atom isn’t the most powerful amp and won’t get the most out of speakers that are harder to drive, including closed box designs like the Tab 10s and Falcons.
Tab 10s - probably my favourite of the small speakers currently on the market. Sublime mid-range, so great if you like vocal-led music, but less engaging if you like rock and more bass-led music. They are definitely bass shy and benefit from placement near a back wall as well as more amps up their backside. In the right set-up they are fantastic. They will sound fine with the Atom, but you won’t be getting the most from them.
DB1 - these are great all round speakers. Ported design, so you get a much fuller bass than the other two options. The do need some space around them to breath. If you have the space I would argue that these are the best match for the Atom.
Falcon - these are closer to the Tab 10s than the DB1s being closed box design. As a result the same advice follows as for the Tab 10s - they benefit from more amps, placement is easy etc. Great speakers, but not the best match for the Atom. I would take the Tab 10s over these for an Atom.
As others have said, getting some good stands is also important.
I’ve not heard Spendor 4/5s, but these are another closed port design like the Tab 10s and Falcons, that get good reviews. Worth an audition if you can find some.
Hi. I own an Atom and it’s connected to a pair of KEF LS50s and it drives them really well with OK bass for a small speaker. The room I use this combo in quite a bit larger (24 x 18 feet) and it has no problem driving them to decent levels. Detailed and an impressive soundstage from the point-source drivers. Worth an audition.
Thanks for all the helpful feedback. Really appreciate it. While my friend is still auditioning some speakers, she already got 5 meter runs of NACA5s, and I lent her my oldie but goodie Mordaunt Short MS10 speakers. Sounds good!
Just some questions:
After a few hours of playing at moderate levels (volume at 25-35), the unit was a bit warm (not hot). Heat sinks were warm which I found perfectly normal, but the volume knob was also a bit warm. Again not hot but just slightly warm. Is this normal? Just a bit concerned since we think the volume knob houses some delicate electronics and what not. The unit has good ventilation as it is placed at the center, on top of a table.
I’m used to my XS3’s casing which rarely gets warm even when playing at louder levels at prolonged periods.
We also noticed that the when we slide in the Naim banana plugs to the speaker terminals, there is a very slight play. Aren’t the Atom’s speaker terminals bolted to the chassis? If not, where are the speaker terminals connected too? Directly to the PCB? would this be reliable in the long run? Or is this another implementation similar to the decoupling method of Naim?
Again comparing it with my XS3 wherein I think the speaker terminals are bolted to the chassis, inserting the banana plugs feel really solid.
I don’t have the same ‘stuff’ as you, but I wouldn’t worry about a little bit of ‘warmth’. Older Naim equipment always tended to run ‘warm’, as the outer casing acts as a heat sink. If you said that it was ‘hot’, that might be cause for concern - unless you were playing thrash metal at deafening volumes!
And I wouldn’t worry about the banana plugs feeling slightly ‘wiggly’ - this again is perfectly normal.
These quirks are all part of the fun of Naim ownership!
My son just bought a pair of Ascend Acoustics LX2 stand mounts for his UnitiStar. I have heard it at his house and it sounds amazing for $1500. It is factory direct in California. My other small speakers are nSats at my house. These Ascends are worth a listen. Maybe not worth round trip trans Atlantic shipping Check out the website and their forum and the company might work with you or point you to a local resource.