Nate's Audio T5 Review

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by Tomorrow, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. Tomorrow Audioholic Ninja

    Tomorrow
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    I've just had a brief exchange with Nathen Field of Nate's Audio. It appears he may be approaching the release of a couple of heretofore back-burner speakers. I am particularly fond of his original T5 monitors and am hoping for a nice surprise or two. His primary effort, the T5's or True 5's, were well received by the few that heard them, winning an award or two. But marketing of the speakers never really seemed to hit stride and they are widely unknown. With that in mind, I thought it appropriate and Nathen's efforts worthy of a reprint my original review of these fine little speakers..."Little Dawg, Big Bark!"
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    Mini-monitors have always intriqued me. My first pair was a set of Infinity Reference RS's, a set that knocked me out with its "put me anywhere" fabulous imaging. Over the years, I've found these interesting little creatures to fit nearly all applications and provide surprisingly good music.

    [​IMG] Although I'm not certain there is a precise definition for where the "mini" part begins or ends, most would agree that the pictured monitors are pretty "mini" in size. Welcome to the a wannabe residents of my office...the T5.

    The speakers arrived in a safe and well-packed box, without socks, but were impeccable from a fit and finish perspective. They were headed for the GNW GTG comparo (http://forums.audioholics.com/forums...light=2010+gtg), but Nate vs. UPS was no contest. Nate lost, and the speakers arrived on the Monday following our event. It's a shame these weren't auditioned by the GTG team. I think they would have acquitted themselves quite well.

    I subsequently have auditioned this pair in two different rooms (an acoustically treated home theater and an acoustically bright office), with two different sets of drive units (Van Alstine Insight+ gear with an Oppo 83 and an Emotiva BPA-1 Integrated with modded JVC XL-Z1050), and have thrown everything from rock to classical to bluegrass to test sounds through them. Before taking them down yesterday, I had them mounted to my old 31" stands that were custom built for my old ACI LX's. These stands are much too short to get the T5's tweeters to ear level. But it doesn't seem to matter. Nate claims that the T5's are specifically optimized for off-axis performance. And my ears agree. So these T5's, too, apparently work anywhere. The Nate's Audio website indicates that the baffle is damped using a unique silica-mica and ceramics based compound that remains pliable as it transforms resonance energy into low level heat.

    I need to clarify early on that I mean "mini" in size only when discussing these speakers. Because the Nate's Audio T5's (aka "True Five) put out a big sound...a huge and powerful sound that belies their stature. The cabinets measures a middling 12"x7.5"x10" and weigh in at the flyweight of just 18.5 lbs each. And yep, I had to check to make sure I HAD turned off my subwoofer the first time I engaged these little guys. "Where did THAT come from?" Nate claims a bass response to 55Hz (the cabinet is tuned to 55Hz). I'm not certain if this is an anechoically measured F3 point, but it seems the 55 is legit. I ran LF sweeps, but didn't think to use my RS SPL meter for dB measurements.

    Powerful bass response is only the beginning with the T5's. I have found imaging to be 3-dimensional...in all directions. No matter what kind of music I threw at them, I received a lesson in holographic sound. HF extension is claimed to 42kHz. But I haven't had any dogs howling when I play frequency sweeps. [​IMG] I can't speak to the accuracy or benefit of any audio exceeding 20kHz (or 11kHz for my overly rocked-out, aged ears). In-room response is stated at 35Hz - 28kHz! And since we are on specs, nominal impedence is listed at 8 ohms and sensitivity is 87 dB (2.83v, 1m). It's an easy load to drive. Finishes are natural maple veneer, piano black, and natural cherry veneer as pictured.

    In his website, Nathen Field, the owner/founder of Nate's Audio, suggests that placement is best a bit out in the room, but that the T5's can go virtually anywhere where there is just a whisp of air available for the rear vents. Due to space constraints in my office, the T5's were auditioned within 8" of corner walls. So there was some bass reinforcement.

    Just for fun, I ran the T5's through the audition tests and music that we used for the GNW GTG (using the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc). With the usual caveat that loudspeaker preference is a subjective matter, here is how I rated the monitors:

    Resolution - Sounds were very natural and distinct. Detail could have been a touch more resolved, but they produced the air I love between notes, particularly with the highs. Glimmering cymbals, also preferred, were largely evident. There was absolutely no sibilance, nor reservation of the high frequencies.
    Bass - Unbelievable for a speaker this small. "I know that sub is connected somewhere!" [​IMG] Not ultra-tight, but that may be because of placement.
    Midrange Purity - This, like many mini-monitors, was the strong suit of the T5's. Very nice, natural vocals, with only a mild, occasional hint of speaker-ness entering the musical presentation. (It's a common complaint I have with monitors and may have something to do with cabinet resonance.)
    Transparency - I thought this one element could have been slightly improved. While sounds were clear and airy, it felt a bit more brutish than delicate at times when the light touch was called for. (Maybe that's the tough personality that comes out of little guys...or maybe it's just my old ears. [​IMG])
    Transients - There was no problem here. Quick, dynamic shifts in musical presentation were a piece o' cake for this pair.
    Visceral Impact - This is another element that seems to me to be a badge worn by most minis. They seem to involve the listener with lots of energy and emotion. The T5 had it in spades.
    Soundstage - Oh my! I heard things coming from pinpoint locations all over the place. I could close my eyes and 'see' the height of the piano, the position of the individual drums in the kit, the absolute location of the vocalist's mic. Good stuff.
    Dynamics - As with Visceral Impact, the T5's are agile and easily have the ability to handle brute force musical attacks.
    Other Comments - Great price-to-sound quality value!

    There were some dynamite, larger, and more expensive monitors compared at the GTG. These T5's certainly would have held their own in many of the audition critical listening categories. And I don't suggest that many of the listeners would have put these units on the top of their performance lists. But they hung with the big dawgs in many of the presentation-evaluated categories. These, of course, are far from perfect loudspeakers. But for the $895 MSRP, I think they are a terrific value and worthy of an audition!
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