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Steve M

This Speaker Deserves Fame and Fortune! Nakamichi Dragon Electrostatic

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I recently purchased a pair of these magnificent hybrid electrostats from Charlie Van Dongen at Reality Technologies in Melbourne.

Firstly, there is a bit of a sad story with the Nakamichi Dragons (also known as the Whise HA1500). They were produced by Charlie and an Australian design team in collaboration with Nakamichi Japan and Rob Mackinlay of ER Audio, around 2008. About 200 pairs of the Naks were produced in a Chinese factory employing up to 70 people. And, this is the bad part ...2008 was the year of financial turmoil in the World, the year of the GFC and bank failures - as a result, Nakamichi pulled support from the project, the factory was closed down and it all went belly up. Its a VERY sad tale as the speaker itself is an absolutely world class product and deserves fame and fortune. The Naks were meant to compete in the price range of $12,000 - $18,000 loudspeakers.

As to the design features, firstly, it is an ACTIVE loudspeaker with 400w/ch of Class AB amplifiers on board. This means that all you need is a source with volume control to use it, namely direct from a CD player, iPod or computer audio (so long as you can attenuate volume at source). The electrostatic panel is a Rob Mackinlay design with ultra thin super-fast membranes capable of doing 20kHz of feathery detailed treble (very few stats can do 20kHz). The panel is driven by a 100w/ch on board amplifier with a crossover point at 250Hz , meaning that the panel is relieved of bass duties, this is critical in allowing the panel to play at high volume levels up to 110dB. The bass section is also driven by a 100w/ch amp and is a sealed isobaric box using 2 x 8" woofers in a bandpass design that is limited at 350Hz, meaning that no voices come out of the woofer, bass is specified to perform down to 26 Hz @ +/- 6dB ...a pretty impressive figure for such a small box.

Now as to the sound of the speaker ...in a nutshell it sounds fabulous. It is definitely in the $10-15K (or more) class of commercial loudspeakers that I have heard or owned over the 30+years in this hobby. The Naks sound refined and balanced with all the detail at the transient edges as you would expect from an electrostatic, they have a huge soundstage and are capable of playing VERY loud without stress or compression. One word of warning they need to be fed with the best music material, source and recordings ...good recordings are excellent, less good just comes across that way ...well, less good. Try and have them out about 5' in the room for good imaging. From what I am hearing thru' the Nak Dragons, vinyl source sounds the best ...its not that they are only good with vinyl - as badly recorded vinyl will still sound bad. You just need to throw the best recordings at the Nak spkr anything less will sound less good, this is their achilles heel, but they are not to be blamed as they are just telling it like it is. On some stuff they sound just OK, on good recordings quite exceptional, you need to be patient with them as they just tell it like it is and - not very forgiving of average recordings. I imagine in a dealer's showroom they could be a bit of a hit-n-miss affair and misconstrued as somewhat bright sounding, but get them into the right acoustic space with superb source and recordings and they will sound like World beaters.

Any caveats with the speaker? While the speaker is beautifully constructed, there is not an external nut-n-bolt to be seen - it is locked up tighter than an Egyptian tomb! I am concerned as to how you would service the speaker should an amplifier or a woofer goes wrong, you can't seem to get into them too easily? I suppose you could always hire Indiana Jones (or Charlie) to break in ;-))

One final word on the bass integration between the boxed isobaric woofer and the electrostatic panel, IMHO, the integration is nigh on perfect and the quantity of bass punches waay above its weight and size! Well done Charlie and Whise on the bass, in fact, well done on the whole project of putting this excellent Australian loudspeaker out there on the World stage!

In the end the Nakamichi Dragon/Whise HA1500 loudspeaker is a very competent, loud playing, excellent sounding, compact and sexy speaker package ...you can't really ask for much more can you?

Regards,

Steve.

PS: No affiliation with Whise/Reality Tech, other than I am a happy customer ...

DSC_5672Large.jpgDSC_5666Large.jpgDSC_5671Medium.jpgDSC_5660Large.jpgDSC_5665Large.jpgDSC_5645Large.jpgDSC_5646Large.jpgDSC_5651Large.jpgDSC_6107Large.jpgNakamichiESLpictiled-1.jpg

Edited by Steve M

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As to the design features itself, firstly, it is an ACTIVE loudspeaker with 400w/ch of Class AB amplifiers on board.

Very cool looking design, Steve. Does this mean that the crossover is active (at line level) or simply that the speaker is powered by built-in amplification prior to a traditional passive crossover? In my mind active line level crossovers (be they analogue or digital) with their steeper slopes are the way to go for any kind of hybrid design using an electrostatic panel.

The electrostatic panel looks to be flat, as opposed to curved a la MartinLogan, SoundLabs, etc, which would theoretically make the design easier to place in room due to the more predictable (and directional) radiation pattern. It would be interesting to compare this speaker to the equivalent offering from Sanders since the two seem to share some common ground.

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I have a pair of these also. I agree with the original posted comments. Very happy with the purchase. Have had them for more than 2 years.

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Heard about these from Grimmie when I went to have a listen to his system on Sunday, they look very nice indeed. Thanks for the write up, it's a shame they are not being made anymore.

Cheers Dave.

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Steve M, you forgot to mention that they look fabulous!

Lucky barstud!

Graham

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Ferdinand Ferrari could have designed those !!

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Guest Muon

Very interesting read, cheers for that :)

I'm sure they must sound excellent!

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What he [steve] said.

These sound how Martin Logans should.

Their story is both heroic and tragic .

All those involved in their design and construction need to be applauded on fullfilling the potential of this type of speaker.In my experience nobody else in the world quite got it right.These people did.

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Excellent, Steve. If they sound as good as they look then they must be sensational.

So how would you compare them to your ERs?

Also, can you give us an idea of their height?

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Gorgeous design. I often wonder why other panel speakers seem to place aesthetics very low on the priority list - these really look sensational.

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Very cool looking design, Steve. Does this mean that the crossover is active (at line level) or simply that the speaker is powered by built-in amplification prior to a traditional passive crossover? In my mind active line level crossovers (be they analogue or digital) with their steeper slopes are the way to go for any kind of hybrid design using an electrostatic panel.

The electrostatic panel looks to be flat, as opposed to curved a la MartinLogan, SoundLabs, etc, which would theoretically make the design easier to place in room due to the more predictable (and directional) radiation pattern. It would be interesting to compare this speaker to the equivalent offering from Sanders since the two seem to share some common ground.

YS: In terms of the crossover, the Nak user manual states "digital crossovers enable precise control of frequency signals giving the Whise ...proprietary advantages over conventional designs ...the crossover was designed by the legendary Neville Thiele to give a seamless transition between the woofer and electrostatic array ...the NTM crossovers are an exact summing, STEEP ROLL-OFF design ...they have the rare advantage of providing a steep roll off with low group behaviour as well as well behaved phase response ...parametric acoustic modeling has also been done ... etc".

And yes, the panel is a flat design preferred by the Nak designer due to lower distortion characteristics over curved panel designs.

Heard about these from Grimmie when I went to have a listen to his system on Sunday, they look very nice indeed. Thanks for the write up, it's a shame they are not being made anymore.

Cheers Dave.

Hi Dave, 'pop' in anytime if you want to hear them.

Ferdinand Ferrari could have designed those !!

AJ: Yes, they are Ferrari like in looks and speed. The aesthetic design brief was given to a graphic designer in Hong Kong (?), apparently the curved slim shape mimics a dancer doing a pirouette (twirl)!

Excellent, Steve. If they sound as good as they look then they must be sensational.

So how would you compare them to your ERs?

Also, can you give us an idea of their height?

Wol, the speakers do not dominate the room (very slim and curvy like Salma) and are about her height too at 1.5m ;-)) Very high WAF factor overall, my missus and kids said you finally got a good looking speaker!

In comparison to my ER Audio ESL-3 fullrange stats, the Naks essentially have the same sonic signature. The Naks with the on-board 100w amps and twin cone woofers are much more capable overall being able to play loud and punchy. In an 'ultimate' sense they are probably not quite as enveloping soundstage-wise mainly, due to the physics of the larger panels (surface area) of the ESL-3, and maybe not quite as finessed at the lowest level of micro details.

Regards,

Steve.

Edited by Steve M

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Are they very sensitive to placement/ set up?

Hi Whatmore,

Yes, the Naks like all stats are quite placement sensitive. You have to sit in the middle for best effect; distance to the front wall affects both depth of imaging and bass impact(hard to juggle this aspect); as is toe-in and spacing critical.

They are quite energetic sounding compared to MLs and Quads I have/had/heard, so the sound is splashed nicely all over the room for casual listening ...this is a bonus.

Steve.

Edited by Steve M

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The electrostatic panel is a Rob Mackinlay design with ultra thin super-fast membranes capable of doing 20kHz of feathery detailed treble (very few stats can do 20kHz).

Sorry. I don't geddit ... 20Khz is supposed to be superlative? :confused:

Regards,

Andy

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Hi Whatmore,

Yes, the Naks like all stats are quite placement sensitive. You have to sit in the middle for best effect; distance to the front wall affects both depth of imaging and bass impact(hard to juggle this aspect); as is toe-in and spacing critical.

They are quite energetic sounding compared to MLs and Quads I have/had/heard, so the sound is splashed nicely all over the room for casual listening ...this is a bonus.

Steve.

The reason I ask is that the one time I heard them they looked as if they'd just been plonked in the room with no thought given to proper positioning. I was pretty underwhelmed by the sound but always felt that they hadn't been given a fair go

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Yeah, I have to say Jack Cheung gave them a pretty average report. And he knows his gear. Not discounting your experience - just asking if set up is crucial.

Edited by strony

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Very cool looking design, Steve. Does this mean that the crossover is active (at line level) or simply that the speaker is powered by built-in amplification prior to a traditional passive crossover? In my mind active line level crossovers (be they analogue or digital) with their steeper slopes are the way to go for any kind of hybrid design using an electrostatic panel.

The electrostatic panel looks to be flat, as opposed to curved a la MartinLogan, SoundLabs, etc, which would theoretically make the design easier to place in room due to the more predictable (and directional) radiation pattern. It would be interesting to compare this speaker to the equivalent offering from Sanders since the two seem to share some common ground.

Sanders is definitely a fan of active crossovers for his electrostats. His bass unit is quite different in design - he favors transmission line. Given the Whise pedigree it would be very interesting to compare the bass between the two designs.

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They have worked well in my room from the start.I just plonked them where I have found other speakers tend to sound their best and they sounded great straight away.

I tried some Ambience ribbons in the same room and could never get them sounding right.So in my experience they do not seem especially position sensitive.My room does have a large bay window behind the speakers with 45 degree windows and curtains so perhaps this has helped with potential rear reflection problems.

I suspect the tapered triangle column behind the stat panel probably also helps in this regard.Most of the rear reflections are reflected to each side of the rear rather than directly behind it.I suspect a very clever bit of design.

Tonally they are excellent.No sign of a lack of body to the midrange or mylar plasticy colouration which has put me off other hybrid stats I have heard.I am very fussy about tone and these are very good.

Imaging is first rate and not beamy.

Edited by THOMO

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Sorry. I don't geddit ... 20Khz is supposed to be superlative? :confused:

Regards,

Andy

Andy, most stats roll off at about 14-15kHz MLs; Quads; Soundlabs; Acoustats etc. it doesn't matter what the manufacturer says or quotes ...and you can hear it. The ER design doesn't its strong to 20kHz, it has an ultra thin 3.4 micron membrane that is better at producing high frequencies; very close stators for a highly charged field and the design is a two-way with a central 2" wide dedicated treble strip unlike any other stat that I am aware of?

The reason I ask is that the one time I heard them they looked as if they'd just been plonked in the room with no thought given to proper positioning. I was pretty underwhelmed by the sound but always felt that they hadn't been given a fair go

Fair enough question and I would say this speaker requires good positioning for best results, more so than others.

Yeah, I have to say Jack Cheung gave them a pretty average report. And he knows his gear. Not discounting your experience - just asking if set up is crucial.

strony: Reviewers and their opinions need to be read between the lines and considered collectively with comments from others on the speaker, there already seems to be plenty of happy users in this thread which to me appears to be a good sign. There's no substitute to sipping from the cup directly ...

Cheers,

Steve.

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