Speaker Shananigans

Thanks for your advice and time . I will indeed keep you posted.

I own a pair of Shananigan Obelisks. They are a wonderful speaker and work extremely well with Naim overall and in particular with my CDS3/252/300 set up. Not often mentioned on the forum these days. Not as in Vogue as the more fashionable trend speakers oft talked about by Forum numbers, but cracking speakers all the same. Worth a consideration? Richard Shananigan was a trailblazer for unconventional LS design that “just works”. May he rest in peace.

It is “Shananigan” or “Shahinian”?

Actually it’s Shahinian, named after Richard Shahinian…renouned for great “live” reproduction. One of the great plus points is you can wheel them out and wheel them back on finished listening. Always sound consistent, whatever the position, plus helps keep your home sanely habitable from Hi-Fi mania.

Hi pslosarc,

It was shenanigans rather than Shahinian …as in nuisance events. In fact the speakers I was considering replacing the Focals with included:

Naim SBL;
Naim SL2;
Tannoy LRM;
Tannoy Cheviots;
Guru QM10;
Guru QM60;
Shaninian Obelisk; and
Larsen 6 or 8.

I decided against the Obelisks as I could see the cats just using it as a landing platform! Similarly I passed on the Larsen’s after a chat with a dealer.

In the event a friends kind offer short circuited this by lending me a pair of SBLs, with an offer to sell them to me if I like what I hear.

Well, this afternoon I have spent an hour playing with Linn Space Optimisation. Unfortunately they don’t have a profile for SBLs. But, I am currently listening to the SBLs via Linn Klimax Renew, EAR868PL and Nord One Up.

The difference between this and the Oppo is more detail, more 3D (although not in the Focal 1008be ball park), and more texture. I would say that the Focal generally transmitted more excitement …but, this isn’t straightforward. Just been listening to AC/DC Thunderstruck, never enjoyed it more.

Currently listening to some Led Zep. Now if I want to listen to this at its best I pop round to a friends whose Tangerined LP12 just kills any classic rock music. But, this is the best I have heard it at home, from a CD rip. I wasn’t into LZ as a teenager and so whilst I have a reasonable amount of Beatles Vinyl I have a dearth of Led Zeppelin; Oh the folly of youth.


Short Review:

Having toyed with buying SBLs for years and decided not to, having left the main Naim fold, I had a zero risk opportunity and this is a report on them in a VERY non-Naim system.

My previous speakers were the Focal 1008be which went through an evolving time in my system. I was immediately taken by what the did well, before being irritated by some downsides which took over a year to sort out. The Focals are very revealing of what is in front of them, and in an aggressive and destuctive way; when things are wrong boy do you know about it. I used the Focals with a BK 400DF sub, which was fast enough to keep up with them. I was happy, then the cats intervened.

The SBLs were offered and I grabbed with both hands. They come with a rep for being complex to set up. In fact there is a lot of help online and I found that the setup took two hours, mainly getting the bottom boxes level and close enough to the solid brick wall that my Victorian house is built of. I set them up 4" from the wall, which was one of the recommended distances, other advise being 2", or simply as close as you can get, this is something I will have to revisit in due course, but I am so happy with the current setup that I am in NO hurry.

My listening was done with the following:
System1: Oppo 105D > Nord One Up NC500 > SBL via A5;
System2: Linn Klimax DS/1 Renew > EAR868PL > Nord One Up NC500 > SBL via A5;
System3: LP12/ARO/Dyn DV20H > EAR868PL > Nord One Up NC500 > SBL via A5.

In due course I will swap out the Nord for an EAR534 & bolt together NAP CB250.

Kicking off with the Oppo I was taken by just how good it sounded. The SBLs do not have the 3D qualities of the Focals, but the project a wider soundfield and where the music has depth it is present, if not so holographically presented as the Focals. However, if the soundfield is not so pronounced on teh SBLs the vocals are, in fact while I thought this was a strength of the Focals the SBLs are better, and are simply better with male vocals. The frequencies are presented very even handedly, perhaps due to the quality of the bass. The bass is simply stunning to my mind. There is no bloat or bloom, what is present is sharp and to the point, by which I mean it takes of at speed and stops on a sixpence; this gives you true insight into what is happening in the lower frequencies.

Having lived with the SBLs I thought it was time to revisit the BK sub. This is dialed into the SBLs using the Hi-Level input fed off the SBLs. For the Focals the cross-over had been set to to 70Hz, I lowered it to 30Hz and lowered the volume, using the REL reference CD to dial it in. I later adjusted the crossover back up to 40Hz and lowered the volume further. I am now pretty satisfied with the support it is giving in the final octave without annoucing itself or slowing down the action.

One of the joys of the SBL is their absolute speed. It allows you to hear what musicians aredoing in terms if double and triple timing, and the subtlties of the drumming and percussion.

Initially I thought that the Focals were transmitting more shear excitement, but as I have settled into them I realise this is just plain wrong, put on some Thin Lizzy and you will be absolutely there.

So how revealing are this bad boys? I think they are extremely transparent. Moving to System 2 I was immediately aware of the increase in detail and texture, not to mention an uptick in soundstaging. So this was revealed as simply better than the 105D? Well, generally yes, but there are some tracks that I do prefer via the Oppo. I THINK this is due to the control that the Linn Klimax brings to the table with Space Optimisation. That takes a vice like grip on the bass, with some tracks I prefer the added bloom of the Oppo.

The LP12 gets rare outings but a friend came over and INSISTED, what a pain …oh, that is VERY nice. Is it the combination of eighties front end playing eighties media through eighties speakers? Perhaps. Anyway the LP12 was that bit faster and bouncier than the digital front ends, although I have tuned them further since then.

I will be continuing to ring the changes, and have an uprated crossover being made. Will I try active? Perhaps, I have a brace of CB250s, so it is not out of the question; but I suspect growing the box count will outweigh the temptation; and, anyway I LOVE what these things are doing passively.

Best I give those cats some treats.


Looking forward to hearing it for myself soon, Mr U :sunglasses:

Looking forward to your thoughts. There are obviously things the Focals do that the SBLs don’t, for instance the controlled rawness that allows the Focals to reproduce brass rasp, so there is unsurprisingly swings and roundabouts.

I think the be Focals are akin to a high wire act, spectacular and enthralling, but you are on the edge of your seat; when they are good, most of the time, they are excellent, but they can just fall over into less comfortable territory. As you know I had a list of music that caused me issues in my system, which I shrank markedly with tuning; but, some just didn’t work well.

For anyone who remembers George Johnson I have been swapping emails with him, he was a keen proponent of the SBLs. I find his advocacy especially interesting as he has forgotten more about classical music than I will ever know, AND he was a double bass player.

We have two cats and my main system (Naim and Spendor 2/3 speakers) lives in a room that remains closed unless I am in it, i.e. the cats are only able to enter the music room under my supervision. Our living room is equipped with the same BK 400DF subwoofer that you have and either Wharfedale 10.1 or Elan Epos 15 speakers and a recapped NAD 3020B or Rega Brio amp, depending on the flavour of the month. Unless the cats actively attack the underside of the subwoofer, it is fairly well protected. I regard the rest of the living room system as reasonably inexpensive and suitable for background music and casual listening. Our cats can sometimes be destructive, which is why the living room system is at the lower end of the price scale.

How exactly did your cats intervene? I suspect I know what the answer might be.

That makes me feel quite relieved that my N-Sub has a fixed metal grille over the driver, so is pretty much cat proof!

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Fortunately my wife left the living room door open having gone in early to let the light in. I was all curled up in bed at about 0700 when there was an almighty crash from below me; pretty certain the two cats were having a mad half hour and just knocked over the right speaker.

You will see from my avatar that I also have cat/speaker interactions, although she is getting older now and probably wouldn’t try this today. But although our several cats have unsupervised access to the room all the time, except at night, the only time a speaker got knocked over was a grand daughter/speaker interaction. Fortunately it ended up resting against something rather than going all the way down. The speaker that is; not the grand daughter!


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You have my sympathy. One of our cats goes ballistic for about 20 or 30 minutes most evenings, which is not really a problem as she is very light and usually very careful, despite racing around at breakneck speed. Sometimes, the other much larger cat will try to beat her up, which results in high-speed chases and sometimes wreckless evasive action.

Despite that, the only real mishaps in our home have been caused by children up to the age of around 10 and drunken adults.

To protect the speakers in the living room, they live on a long sideboard. I know that they sound better on stands, but the risk of them being knocked over is simply too high. For casual listening, this is a compromise that I can accept.

A friend of mine once lost the cover of a Spendor BC1 when his cat decided that it needed some attention. He then moved the speakers into a dedicated music room that is off limits to the cat. Both the cat and the Spendors survived otherwise unscathed.

I know of another incident in which the owner of some large and expensive B&W footmounts was reduced to tears. His cat trashed one bass driver with its claws and liberally sprayed the other speaker. Sadly, this was only noticed several hours later.

Thanks. As it happens the SBLs are excellent and I don’t feel any loss in quality.

EAR534 vs Nord One Up NC500

Well, today I was nagged into putting my EAR534 back into my system driving my main speakers, which are now Naim SBLs …and, as much as it pains me to write this, the 534 is simply better.

The Nord One Up NC500 is very good, but the 534 is music. NOT the result I wanted, as I can leave the Nord on for other family members.

As it is I will be using the Nord to power my centre and rears for AV, and using the EARs for my main listening.

All this said, I have thoroughly enjoyed using the Nord as my main amp for a few months, and it has improved. If the 534 was not sitting on a shelf I could carry on listening to it without pain, but the EAR IS there and will now being going back home for a service.

SBL Listening Session

MDS cam over this morning. Mike has been listening to my system over a couple of years and so he is an excellent control for me when I introduce changes. His immediate comment was, ‘Well, that’s different’.

We agreed on the differences between the Focals and the SBLs, although I stated that I thought the Focals imaged better, and Mike demured. I tightened up my thought in that the SBLs image well and widely, but are not so strong on depth.

There were two ‘Oh WOW’ moments:

  1. I played The Wall on the LP12
    Mike said, ‘That doesn’t sound like an LP12’, which I thought was interesting; and

  2. I played the 24bit version of Come Together

Both of these sounded superb, the rest wasn’t too shabby either!

Rather different from MDSs CD555, 500, Focal system; but great fun to compare and contrast!


Having listened to The Wall on vinyl I then played back my 9624 vinyl rip, which had had the benefit of being de-clicked. Well, it was certainly good and very listenable, but the bounce and life of the LP was sadly lessened.

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And a very enjoyable morning it was, too, Mr U. My first experience of SBLs. I can understand why they have a fan-club.

Being a long term user of these wonderful speakers it’s great to see another convert to the cause. I think your description of their sound is spot on. Fast, lively, engaging and with bass detail, if not weight, to die for. Enjoy!


Hi Stu,

One of the joys to me is the way they render pianos. They catch the resonances so well that they come alive. I played MDS Mike Garson’s homage to David Bowie, for whom he was a pianist. This is made of of jazz versions of some of Bowie’s hits. I enjoyed this recording via my Focal 1008be, but through the SBLs it simply comes alive.

Where the SBLs give ground to the Focals is in the depth of the sound stage, high frequency detail and rasp. Brass sounds good through the SBLs, but it sounds real through the Focals.

Everything is a compromise, and as I said to Mike, I am the happiest with the SBLs of any speaker I have owned.



Lovely write up and homage to the SBL sounds like you have found a great match for your amps.