Pure Acoustics Noble Speaker System
My daughter has been coming home recently with holes in her slacks—and, no, they aren't the holes she puts her legs through, as she wryly pointed out the other day. (That's what I get for raising a family full of wiseacres.) The cause of these holes is a bit of a mystery, seeing as how they appear and reappear at the same spots on each leg at random times. I've toyed with the idea of treating them as the fashion equivalent of crop circles or the result of an obsessive-compulsive moth, but these are, as you might conclude, unfulfilling answers. None of her peers have similar apparel problems, so it appears to be an extremely localized phenomenon. It remains an enigma.
The point of this story is not a plea for Sherlock Holmesian advice. For our purposes, the relevant part is her response to my attention to what, in her mind, is such a trivial issue. "Who cares if there are holes in my pants, Dad. It's just my uniform pants," she informs me. After using reason and logic ("physical appearance is important in life," "new pants cost real money," and "you'll get a pinhole suntan") regarding why I want her to help discover and then avoid whatever it is that's causing the breaches in her britches, I settle on the "because I said so" conclusion to the conversation. It's not uncommon for domestic disputes about home entertainment gear to proceed (and end) in a similar manner.
As a writer, reviewer, all-around expert, and general font of wisdom, I'm not here to tell you how your home theater should look. To continue the clothing theme, my setup pretty much looks like a baggy pair of painter's pants that have been ripped by one too many loose nails. For many people, though, the appearance of their system is important. Unfortunately, style and affordability aren't always an easily acquired combination.
Pure Acoustics, a speaker company new to the United States (but not new to many parts of the rest of the world), figures there's a niche here, and they aim to fill it. At less than $1,750, the 5.1-channel Noble-series speaker package that Pure Acoustics sent for review isn't exactly dirt cheap, but it does fit in that amorphous "affordable" category. In this price range, you'll most likely find squared-off, vinyl-clad boxes lined up on store shelves or demo walls. The Pure Acoustics speakers, on the other hand, have rounded cabinet edges and a high-gloss finish, and this includes the subwoofer. Sure, the finish isn't in the same league as that of a Steinway piano, but it's definitely a step above the ordinary faux-wood-grain vinyl when it comes to home theater speaker systems in this price range.
The system I received for review was from an early production run and came to me straight from the factory. The gloss-black finish, while very nice, had a few slight imperfections that were noticeable when I closely inspected the speakers. A couple of months later, I saw samples of the same speakers at the Consumer Electronics Show. From the looks of the units on display there, it certainly seems like Pure Acoustics has ironed out all the kinks in the finishing process.
The four models that make up the Noble series are the Noble F front speakers, the Noble C center channel, the Noble S surrounds (are you beginning to detect a pattern here?), and the Noble SUB. None of the speakers has more than two sets of parallel cabinet walls, a feature that, in addition to reducing internal standing waves, helps to further distinguish the speakers from their similarly priced counterparts. (Curved shiny things are attractive. Dull square things are, well, square and dull.) Of course, you will have to contend with the possibility of scratching the shiny finish.
Each of the full-range speakers uses the same 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The Noble F is a floorstanding, three-way speaker that uses a pair of 5-inch woofers plus a 5-inch midrange driver. The Noble C is a two-way center channel that includes two 4-inch woofers. The Noble S surround uses a ported cabinet and one 4-inch woofer. The Noble SUB has a 10-inch woofer and includes a 150-watt amplifier in a ported cabinet.
Although, in most respects, the gloss finish is a big positive, it can pose a problem when it comes to positioning the Noble S speakers. Pure Acoustics provides a tiny keyhole slot in the back of the surrounds for wall mounting. Considering the slot's size and the fact that the Noble S is ported on the rear of the cabinet, this mounting option is less than optimal, but the guys at Pure Acoustics say they will change to a front port by July of this year. With a traditional box speaker, it wouldn't be a big deal to screw on an OmniMount, Vantage Point, or other third-party wall bracket and be done with it. It's a little more daunting to consider drilling holes and twisting screws into the back of the curved, high-gloss cabinet.
In addition to the finish, the Noble system really shines when it comes to the way the speakers blend together. In a movie such as The Chronicles of Narnia, in which sound effects and music play an important role, the package did exceedingly well. In the scene when Lucy first discovers the wardrobe, the fly that buzzes through the room moved from channel to channel very smoothly. In the same way, when the music swells a bit later, the surrounds did an excellent job of filling in the soundfield in the rear.
I can say the same about the art-auction scene near the beginning of The Red Violin, in which the auctioneer's voice moves throughout the soundfield as the camera angles and locations change. At high volume levels, you will begin to hear some hints of strain in the center channel when the auctioneer's voice is primary. Considering the speakers' relatively small size (especially that of the Noble C and Noble S), you should probably look for a different speaker system if you like to play movies exceptionally loud or have an overly large room.
The Noble F fronts performed very well with two-channel music, albeit with a bit more emphasis in the high frequencies than I usually like. The Noble Fs clearly brought out the distinctiveness of the voices in "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? CD, but the towers couldn't generate much depth in the playback. The speakers are noticeably directional vertically, so you will definitely want to adjust the rake angle—a task that's a bit difficult since the Noble F doesn't come with adjustable feet.
The Noble SUB is not the beefiest sub-$600 subwoofer you'll find, but it mates very well with the rest of the system and performed admirably when I tasked it with heavy duties in movies such as House of Flying Daggers and U-571. The subwoofer also held up well playing Telarc's 1812 Overture SACD release, although the character sounded a tad tubby at times.
A high-gloss black speaker system (or the high-gloss white or silver versions) will not appeal to everyone, but it's nice to see a company offer something that's a little more elegant than the norm at this price point. The Pure Acoustics folks tell me that they designed the system to appeal to a person spending $2,500 or less on a plasma TV who wants something more visually appealing to go with it. The company has certainly done a good job of putting together a distinctive-looking package with sound quality that's very competitive with other companies' less visually appealing alternatives. You might say that the system looks better than it sounds, and it sounds good for the money.
• Curved, high-gloss cabinets are a bonus at this price
• The speakers blend together nicely, and sound travels well between them
• Good system for a small room