The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)

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vinyldavid

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The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« on: 11 Mar 2013, 07:45 am »
The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW
by: vinyldavid

Edited 12 Mar 2013 with added info from the host and designer.




   I have a very non-uniform work schedule.  The only “constant” in my schedule is that I have every other Sunday off, and this was a Sunday that I was supposed to work. My work schedule was up in the air until Friday, and it turns out that was because multiple people had made odd requests.  Anyway, it turned out that I did not work today.  Late-night forum browsing led me to a short-notice offer from a friend of mine to listen to speakers I’d never heard of.  Before even Googling the company, I RSVP’d my slot.  Afterwards, I did a bit of research to find out what I was in for, but I figured I’d go in with an open mind, so I avoided any real reviews. 

   I got to Dave’s place, to find it looking very different than I had seen it a couple weeks previously, with a pair of what looked to be bookshelf speakers on powered subwoofers.  In a very small sense, I was right.  Dave began to explain how the speakers worked, and their design philosophy. 

   They were designed from the crossovers on up, I believe he said “the crossovers drive the drivers, and the drivers drive the cabinet” or a variation thereof.  From what I heard, the designer, Phil Bamberg, uses computer modeling to tweak the crossover first.  In this design uses a moderate slope, 4th-order Linkwitz-Riley alignment which ”allows for flat-summed response with no peaking at cross point, and complete phase coherency across several octaves.” (Phil Bamberg) The speakers consist of an upper cabinet with a soft-dome tweeter and midrange driver with a gold phase plug.  The tweeters are offset to create left and right speakers.  He uses a midrange and tweeter sourced from SEAS, and the subwoofer driver and passives are from ScanSpeak.  The lower cabinet has risers that come up and bolt into the upper cabinet.  The lower cabinet contains the woofer amplifier/crossover assembly, a 12” woofer and two passive radiators, which Mr. Bamberg calls drones.  The whole system is slightly tilted back.  Fit’n’finish was quite excellent, The cabinets are made by the designer and his associate Steve Fay.  I like the use of noticeable driving mounting hardware on the midrange and tweeter.  As an aesthetic choice, I like seeing how things are put together.  The woofer and passives are covered by grilles.  There are also magnetically-attached grilles for the midrange/tweeter portion.

   The speaker system is somewhat unusual in the audiophile world, I think.  The user sends the line level signal from the preamp into the woofer amplifier, where a crossover removes the information destined for the woofer, then sends the high-passed signal (remember, high-pass = low removed, low-pass = high removed) back to the user’s power amplifier and then that drives the midrange and tweeter.  The plate amplifier also includes controls for gain, dampening, and a parametric EQ with shape controls, along with phase inversion.  The mid/high unit has a 0, -1db, -3db switch for the tweeter, which was on the -1db selection by the designer after setup in-room.  Ancillary equipment used was a Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A 25wpc amplifier, Musical Fidelity CD player, and Primare PRE30 preamp.

   The speakers were set up by the designer, with an X marking the sweet spot, as designated by the designer.  I eventually found my preference was about 3 feet behind that, the speaker drivers were approximately on axis with my ears, I would guess 15 feet behind the speakers.  The speakers themselves were about 16” from the sidewalls, 5 feet from the rear walls, and 6’6” apart.  The room itself has an uneven ceiling, which caused some very very sleight artifacts to the sound, but didn’t detract from anything.

   When I sat down, Dave cued up Cyndi Lauper’s The Body Acoustic.  Music, music like I’d never heard before poured forth from the speakers.  I don’t play with this level of equipment at home, and I was taken aback at what I was hearing.  I’m not used that sort of information presentation in anything other than a live environment.  The sheer accuracy with which every instrument and voice portrayed both in tonal quality and delineation within a mix was startling.  The soundstage extended out to the walls, but extend well beyond the rear of the speakers. 

   Bass was solid, well-controlled, and extended.  Organ tones were reproduced very well for such a (relatively) small enclosure.  I’ve heard more bass weight, and lower bass on about 1% of speakers, but never the combination of such speed, range, and expressiveness.  On Bach’s classic Tocatta and Fugue in D minor, from the Telarc Organ Blaster sampler, the quite bombastic changes in level and low frequency output were handled effortlessly, and while a live pipe organ could pressurize a room, these come damn close.  On Pink Floyd’s One Of These Days, It was very clear that Roger Waters was playing two bass lines, one plucked and one thumbed.  It was something I had never noticed before.  The midrange could only possibly be described as accurate, laying bare everything there was to hear in a recording, and I was fortunate to demo things I had recorded and mixed myself, which although lacking in some respects, was able to truly illustrate what a speaker sounded like (at least to me), and how my production choices were handled by something so esoteric. 

   The top end suited the recording, where the recording was harsh, it was laid bare, when the recording lacked high frequency extension, it was conveyed honestly.  Overall, the sound of the speakers was accurate from top to bottom, with some of the best imaging I’ve heard-ever.  The high-slope crossovers help with this.  The drivers used seemed to have a very smooth polar response across all axes’.  There were no obvious in-room bumps or dips in the frequency response.  I may have wanted to drop the tweeter control slightly more than -1db, if I owned them, as I felt that they could get a bit hot at times, but my room is also softer and more absorptive than the room I was listening in.  This also could have been the way the source equipment (which I was somewhat unfamiliar with) mated to the speakers.  All volumes of music from background to a point where the 25w amp had no more to give were reproduced effortlessly, with no dead spots or sweet spots discernible.

   But what I kept coming back to, especially in music like Blackmore’s Night’s Diamonds and Rust. A recording with a dense, filled, soundscape with all sorts of instruments and a somewhat ethereal female vocalist coupled with Richie Blackmore’s noodling overlaying everything.  The Bambergs allowed us to hear into the music, and clearly delineate every instrument, ambient texture, and inflection. Everything different from everything else, something I have never heard any other reproducer do, with the exception of electrostatic headphones.  We listened to all sorts of music, from Amy Winehouse, in which the Bambergs laid bare the rounded off clip-limiting of her vocals on one track, to part of Rutter’s Requiem and Seth MacFarlane’s new Sinatra-esque album, which clearly demonstrated the Bamberg’s ability to do something that many higher end systems do not: play actual music.  I was able to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music, focusing on the performers musical styles, but when I wanted to, critique the engineering and production choices.  My system sometimes has a hard time doing that, focusing more on the technical side of things, and it was incredible to hear something that presented music so clearly, in every respect.  I can’t comment on comparative value, since I haven’t heard many speakers over $1000, much less the $9000 these command, but I do know I would recommend them to anyone looking in that budget range.


« Last Edit: 12 Mar 2013, 04:19 pm by vinyldavid »

rockadanny

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #1 on: 11 Mar 2013, 12:50 pm »
Beautiful speakers.
Very nice review - thank you.

Quote
... where the recording was harsh, it was laid bare, when the recording lacked high frequency extension, it was conveyed honestly.

I am curious, how do you know this as fact?

daves

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #2 on: 11 Mar 2013, 01:45 pm »
Danny, for the live recordings that David played, he was the recording engineer for them, so he knows their faults and warts intimately.

Like many people, I was concerned about speaker placement. My wife and ten year old use the main downstairs listening area frequently, and having a set of large, valued speakers intruding into their space is not readily feasible. Our room is 12.5' wide by 32' long, with a 1'  enroachment at the 21' point.

The speakers are placed 5' in from the wide front wall, and approximately 16" inboard of each side wall. Each subwoofer chamber is rear tilted 6" to aid in imaging. They are toed in slightly, with 6'6" distance separating the two speakers. The sweet spot is midline at a point ten feet in front of the speakers, and aproximately 16' from the front wall, as you sit.

Finally, a few more tidbits to tighten up David's review. The preamp is a Primare PRE30(thanks, Kent,) the cabinets are by Steve Fay and Phil,  the interconnects are a combination of midline Transparent cables, Audioquest, and vintage Synergistic Research Alpha speaker cables alongside Phil's Soundstrings. This combination of borrowed, vintage, and new would be a quite common situation where the speakers would be the first step up into a high level audio upgrade, rather than an en masse upgrade purchase.
« Last Edit: 12 Mar 2013, 01:42 am by daves »

DS-21

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #3 on: 11 Mar 2013, 10:43 pm »
Small correction: the midrange and tweeter units appear to be Seas Excel/Millennium, not ScanSpeak.

wedweb

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #4 on: 12 Mar 2013, 01:03 am »
Nice review David.  Nice to meet you too.  I too like the 3 to 4 foot back from the "sweet spot" and about 12" up from my seated position.  I think that was due to the 5d tilt of the 2-way.

PEB

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #5 on: 12 Mar 2013, 01:26 am »
Thank you for the kind review.

The subwoofer drivers and passive radiators (I hear the term “drones” now has a more ominous connotation these days) are currently from ScanSpeak.   But the midrange and tweeter are both SEAS, not ScanSpeak. 

As I mentioned to Dave S, I consider the 4th-order acoustic crossover slopes to be moderate instead of steep.  (The 4th-order Linkwitz-Riley alignment allows for flat-summed response with no peaking at cross point, and complete phase coherency across several octaves.)  Often I get the comment that the sound is seamless from top to bottom, as though there is only one transducer instead of three.  IOW one cannot determine the handoff between the drivers. 

The cabinets are all made by Steve Fay (Sandwich IL) and myself.  You can see the monitor grille leaning up against the wall in Vinyl David’s second photo.  All grilles hold on magnetically. 

During setup, I tried both the 0 and -1dB positions for the tweeter, and left it on -1 after listening to a couple tracks.  The treble contour switch is intended to primarily to adjust the treble for the room/system/listener requirements, but it can be used on a per-song basis if needed.  As I explained to Dave S, the “goal” is to achieve the fully flat 0dB position with the best electronics and appropriate room treatments.  Then the sound will finally reach its most accurate, neutral, and detailed best. Until then the -1dB usually works best, and -3 is reserved for overly hard-surfaced rooms. 

To Rockadanny’s question about recording quality, I would say that these speakers are “chameleon-like”.  IOW, they will sound silky smooth on such a recording, or harsh if the recording is that way.  A mixed blessing if you will.  Therefore the owner is rewarded again for each system improvement whether it be through partnered gear upgrades, or added room treatment, etc. 


vinyldavid

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #6 on: 12 Mar 2013, 04:00 pm »
Thanks to Dave and Phil, I edited and added a few things, as well as noticed some grammatical errors and incomplete phrases (I wrote it very late at night).

rockadanny

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #7 on: 12 Mar 2013, 07:52 pm »
Daves and Peb - Thanks for the replies. Nice. Certainly adds a great amount of credibility to the evaluation.  :thumb:

daves

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #8 on: 12 Mar 2013, 10:14 pm »
Last night(Monday) Adrian, Jeff, and Ted stopped in for a listen. Adrian has been a violinist for the St. Louis Symphony for many years, and currently plays for the Bach Society, as well as teaching our budding Mozart musical prodigies. Jeff has a degree in music, and has been passionately intimate with a trumpet for many years, and has a pair of B&W 800 series speakers. Ted is a good friend who sings weekly in his church choir, and knows voices quite well.

One of the first cds we played was Shirley Horn's "here's to Life," and what a magnificent album we heard. Everything was there - imaging, depth, a wonderful sound stage, every instrument well recorded and rendered in all its glory before us. There were a few more glorious moments, but this first one made me a lifetime fan of Shirley Horn, and it is now a necessity to buy this album.

I'll leave some meat on the bone if Adrian and Jeff want to add a few comments, but the music and these speakers made for a wonderful evening with friends over visiting. :D

Never did I think that I could get a 20 - 20kHz audiophile sound in this modest and compromised room. These speakers are really making me hurt, but in a good way.  :green:




jimdgoulding

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #9 on: 12 Mar 2013, 11:14 pm »
Daves-  Shirley Horn is a wonderful artist around here, too, not to mention the century.  You should hear You Won't Forget Me on Verve.  Berry, berry nice recording, too.

spab

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #10 on: 16 Mar 2013, 01:37 am »
Dave was kind enough to let me stop in yesterday afternoon to hear the Bamberg speakers. This past Sunday, while in Chicago, I was able to hear a previous iteration of them at Jackman’s in Chicago – so I had an idea of what to expect. In fact, I believe the top mid/tweet units were basically identical. Jackman’s bass unit however didn't have the internal amplification and so was driven by an external amplifier. With that being said, these speakers were very impressive at both locations. I can also comment that I was able to hear them with various amplification combos for the mid/tweet units:
solid state pre/solid state amp
tube pre/solid state amp
tube pre/tube amp
The very impressive performance of the speakers was in no way compromised by any of the amplification combos. They certainly seem to be an expertly engineered product that is not as well known, but delivers a tremendous value at its price point.  Well worth it to give these a listen.   :thumb:     

Joe_K

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #11 on: 16 Mar 2013, 04:29 am »
Bamberg V Speakers, thoughts and comments;
Seeing the pictures and reading the e-zine reviews, along with fellow GASers comments peaked my interest in these speakers.
It was apparent a lot of thought and solid engineering went into the design of the Bamberg Fives. The isolated mid – tweet enclosure, (which could make a very nice stand mount or bookshelf speaker by itself) with woofers placed to take advantage of the Allison boundary effect, or should I say, minimize the effect,  the six degree rear tilt, internal woofer amp w/ crossover. Heavy, solid cabinets and of course the beautiful wood finish! Everything one would want in a speaker, nicely integrated!
What about the sound? There's an immediate WOW factor! Very clear, transparent, highly resolved music emerges from a black background, along with taught well defined bass. Nothing added to the performance!
We sampled pop, jazz and classical, plus cuts from the demo CD.   
Everything sounded excellent! I would love to spend more time listening to the Bamberg’s. 
My only concern is they may be too neutral / analytical for my taste?  If that makes any sense?  Only long term listening could answer that question! 
I do recommend everyone give these a listen; you may find your speaker quest satisfied for a long time!
I would like to thank Phil and Dave for providing the listening experience.

JK

PEB

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Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #12 on: 16 Mar 2013, 01:20 pm »
Quote
you may find your speaker quest satisfied for a long time!

Or perhaps discover that they are your

    Speakers for LifeTM !


Thanks, everyone.
 :)

jackman

Re: The Bamberg Audio Series 5-TMW (a review)
« Reply #13 on: 16 Mar 2013, 04:42 pm »
Hi Guys,
If this is inapropriate, please feel free to delete.  Although I feel the Series 5's offer world class performance at a very reasonable price, and compete with speakers selling for twice the price, I realize they may exceed the budgets of many audiophiles.  I noticed that Phil has a couple speakers in the "for sale" section of the Bamberg website that may be within reach of budget minded audiophiles. 

I owned an older version of Series 2's (with active xover sub stands)and they sounded very similar to the Series 5 monitors. All of the Bamberg speakers I have auditioned sond very similar (very neutral and transparent) and they are an easy load for most amps.  I also heard the Series 4.5's that are for sale and they are excellent sounding.  They don't have the active subs but they go low enough for most music and the cabinets are rock solid. 

http://bambergaudio.com/service/on-sale.php


Cheers

Jack