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Arx A3 compared to NHT Classic Three

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  • Arx A3 compared to NHT Classic Three


    I have been reading about and have auditioned various brands of speakers. I have narrowed it down to NHT Classic Three and ARX A3's. Has anyone compared these two speakers. I appreciate everyones input but please just comment if you have compared these two speakers. I have listened to an older model NHT bookshelf speaker and was very impressed with the natural warm sound they projected. I compared these NHT's to another very popular name brand and was surprised how the NHT speakers were bringing out sound that I could not hear in the other brand speakers. I don't want to mention the other brand because I don't want to offend anyone. We all have different sounds we are seeking, I am looking for as natural sound as possible. I have read nothing but good things about the ARX speakers. It has taken me a while to save up the money to upgrade my existing system. I acquire the money at birthdays and Christmas instead of gifts. The only reason I mention my money situation is to explain why I have not already purchased the ARX speakers. Jon Lane has been a pleasure to speak with and is very helpful. The only reason I have not made the move is because of the shipping costs for the ARX speakers. I am a little leary of buying the speakers paying the shipping cost and then if for some reason I don't like them then I would incur another shipping cost fee. This is substantial for me because I could be out $150.00 to $200.00 dollars. I do understand paying the shipping fee also keeps the cost of the ARX speakers at an incredible price. I am looking forward to seeing if anyone has experienced these two speakers and performed a comparison.

    Thank you in advance.


  • #2
    Being in the running with the NHT is a compliment, walbaco. I hope we can compare... :) From the technical point of view, the two systems are similar enough to warrant a comparative audition, but different enough that a theoretical analysis could benefit the shopper too.

    The stand monitor is a 6.5" acoustic suspension three way. The tower is a double 5.25" bass reflex 2.5 way. The monitor is smaller, with a little less cone area, and is therefore a couple dB less efficient. Both are 8 ohms, so any difference in bass F3 (the -3dB point in Hz) mostly involves its ratio with efficiency - larger means more efficient. Here we invoke Hoffman's Iron Rule, which always trades off enclosure volume, speaker efficiency, and F3.

    In general a sealed system will also roll out sooner (higher) but with a shallower attenuation rate, and the bass reflex system will go deeper but have a sharper attenuation rate. The differences between bass reflex and acoustical suspension add variables to the Hoffman relationship: sharply rolled-off lower down, or gently rolled-off higher up, respectively.

    It appears the larger Chane model is going to offer higher efficiency with deeper response in bass reflex, but I suspect the NHT will exceed its bass reach when both are in acoustic suspension, the NHT's native alignment type. (You can stop the A3rx-c's port and convert it.)

    The monitor is a three-way, bringing the usual characteristics of a 3-way topology into play. How audible or important this is is another question, but some prefer the acoustical purity of a 2-way. The Chane A3rx-c is a "shaded" 2-way, with the lower midwoofer's response tailored to just fill in the diffraction step below a few hundred cycles and therefore allowing the entire speaker's range to be more efficient than the single woofer equivalent(s).

    Also factoring are combined driver areas, including areas versus frequency. The NHT has a midrange and tweeter combined area of about the same surface as the Chane's planar tweeter, but the NHT is using the mid to a much lower frequency. Total surface area for both speakers are comparable, meaning that in simple distortion terms, they should have similar total levels of distortion, although distributed differently. Likewise, driver dispersions will vary between the two systems, probably favoring the NHT above roughly 800Hz. As with distortion, how relatively important and audible this is will vary with frequency.

    Technology-wise, the Chane models use SplitGap, meaning that for any comparable speaker in terms of cone area, the SplitGap midbass range will offer roughly 2x the linear output and about 40% less distortion. This has much to do with the subjective sound of Chane models reported by users. The relatively large tweeter does similar things for the treble. More area and more linear driver excursion equals lower distortion.

    The reason I'm going to this length is to use this comparison as an example of how to initially evaluate a speaker. Often we seen them compared by price and/or brand reputation. This is much less helpful than simply "spread-sheeting" their real mechanical differences, primarily total driver area and net internal volume.

    Fundamentally and acoustically, bigger is always better, with the only drawback to more area and more net internal volume being cost and dispersion - it costs more to make larger speakers and they usually have greater challenges making sound spread uniformly in the room.

    Where it really counts, of course, is answering the question you're really asking, which can't be predicted by bench-racing models or even these sorts of analysis: But what's it sound like? All I can say is that we find the language used by Chane 'Arx' users to mimic ours, which I personally think is a testament to uncovering the music behind the veils - behind the distortions - that stand between the listener and his or her recordings. I've had high regard for NHT for a long while, because as you note:

    Originally posted by walbaco View Post
    I...was surprised how the NHT speakers were bringing out sound that I could not hear in the other brand speakers...I am looking for as natural sound as possible.
    Natural sound is the inevitable sound of uncovered source program material. A good loudspeaker has had the major distortions managed in a way that simply allows the music out. This, I think, is what folks notice about the less-is-more loudspeaker. Music happens only when it goes away.


    • #3
      Man, it's nice to be a participant of a forum whose team is so logically evaluating and at the same time have the ability to design such refined products that are from my owner's view and all others' reports so well optimized and executed.

      Jon - fascinating reasoning, and kudos for a broad brush stroke comparison of two lines of speakers (bookshelf and floor standing) from two companies.


      • #4
        Thanks, sbdman. Many of us have our areas of interest. Eventually we find a perspective that allows us to peer under the hood and get a clear sense of what we're dealing with. Looking at things technically opens up the window on approximately what to expect acoustically.

        As noted, price and brand comparisons are natural - and they may even avoid what some of us have taken to calling "audio bench-racing", along with avoiding evaluation by specification which is a form of it - but while shopping by spec is no substitute for shopping by ear, specs cannot substitute for a basic analysis of what technically defines the device either, acoustical horsepower being key.

        Add up driver areas, investigate the net bass enclosure volumes, compare real impedance magnitudes, and look for a sane set of F3 and efficiency numbers. Beware of very low impedance speakers driven by 2.83v instead of 1 real Watt, because this can skew the speaker's voltage sensitivity by up to 3dB. Then look into real technologies and see if you can find a real advantage there for any contender.

        Yet, the OP is asking the only question that matters in the end, which is has anyone compared the two by ear. In my view they're acoustically similar enough to warrant the topic.


        • #5

          Thank you very much for providing a technical explanation of how speaker technology works. This journey of looking for an upgrade to my current home theater system has been fun and informative. I have learned a lot. I have a friend I work with who know a lot about auditioning speakers. My friend provided a reference speaker for comparison. I auditioned a speker that had nothing but good reviews from professional writers. I auditioned the speaker with the great reviews against the reference speaker. I was shocked how much of the listening material was missing fromt the speaker that had the great reviews. This is why I am looking to end users and no longer trusting the professional writers who audition speakers. These writers may not be looking for the same sound I am looking for. Even though this journey has been fun I am ready to buy some speakers to upgrade my existing system. I really want to kick back in my living room and listen to music and hear all the things I have been missing. My existing system is ok for movies but is not what I want for music.

          Best regards,


          • #6

            I am not sure if you are the administrator of this web page, but I am assuming you are because you are listed as "Administrator." It took me all weekend to get my previous reply to this blog. The site would indicate that I am logged in, I would type my reply, then the page would fail after selecting "Submit Reply." I thought maybe it was a timing issue so I prepared my response on a word document and copied and pasted in to the blog with no success prior to today. I tried from two different computers. Also Friday and Saturday I had no issues accessing and logging in to other web sites. I tried 3 or 4 times on Friday and Saturday.

            I am not trying to complain, thought you would want to know.

            Best regards,