Speakers AlFresco Niles Audio OS6.5


Performance
Build Quality
Value
Niles Audio OS6.5

Price: $460/pair At A Glance: Rounded, organic design • Nearly indestructible build quality • Broad dispersion

The Niles OS6.5—again, that’s an O, not a zero—is billed as an indoor/outdoor speaker. In fact, you might use it in an indoor stereo or surround system, the manufacturer says. Whether you live at the South Pole or on the Equator, this may be the speaker for you. The manufacturer says it can survive temperatures from minus-50 to plus-185 degrees.

Niles isn’t fooling around when it uses the term “weatherproof” in its literature: This speaker exceeds federal anticorrosion specifications (MIL-STD-883D) for military or aerospace use. To attain that status, it had to pass dozens of environmental, mechanical, and electrical tests. For water protection, it meets the IEC IPX5 standard, which means it can withstand 12.5 liters of water sprayed from a 6.3mm nozzle at a distance of 3 meters for at least 3 minutes. The OS6.5 is also flame retardant, meeting the UL 94-V2 standard: When ignited, it will stop burning within 30 seconds, rather than spread the fire. Its enclosure is a mix of ABS plastic, nylon, and UV stabilizers, the latter to resist sunlight.

This speaker’s distinctive shape is all curves with not a single flat surface or sharp edge to be found. It has an organic look, as though hatched from a seed in some idyllic speaker meadow. That enables it to fit more easily under eaves and into corners. The nondetachable, curved, aluminum grille has the smallest perforations of any of the three speakers, which makes it look slightly more elegant when viewed up close and personal.

If you don’t like the color, you can change it. This is the only speaker reviewed whose manual says it can be painted (apply a coat of primer first). The OS6.5 comes supplied with a transparent plastic grille cover, so you can apply the desired shade of Lapis Lazuli or Alabama Crimson without dribbling paint into the baffle or splashing the drivers.

You’ll love these speakers every time you touch them. The C-mount bracket dial has six finger-width diagonal grooves, making it the grippiest dial of the three speakers: No matter how your hand approaches it, your fingers naturally land in the grooves. The bracket has six perforations. From the top, they include: half-inch horizontal oblong, T-shaped keyhole, half-inch round and half-inch vertical oblong in center, T-shaped keyhole, and half-inch horizontal oblong at bottom. There’s also a threaded insert to enable installation of an optional mount with a wider potential range of adjustment. Binding posts are angled downward, an unusual arrangement, to repel moisture.

The driver array includes a 6-inch, interlaced, carbon-fiber cone and a 1-inch trilaminate Teteron dome tweeter with fluid cooling. The woofer basket is integrated into the baffle, which is said to increase cone area relative to cabinet width and better optimize bass performance for the given cabinet size. While all three of the speakers reviewed were tuned to have aggressive bass, the OS6.5 was the most surprising—perhaps because it has the smallest enclosure. The Joan Osborne bass riff men-tioned earlier was competitive with the two larger speakers. The OS6.5 also had the most consistently broad coverage of the three. I could walk around the room and hear the same tonal balance pretty much anywhere: The shallow-body acoustic guitars of Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists kept their crispness on Bach’s “Corrente” (Intergalactic Boogie Express), and every one of the Yorkshire voices in Waterson:Carthy’s “Stars in My Crown” (Common Tongue) retained its distinctive beauty. The price for that wide dispersion was vague imaging in the sweet spot: Chris Whitley’s ribbon miked vocal on “Wild Country” (Dirt Floor) was more woolly and elusive than it ordinarily would be.

Alone among the three manufacturers covered here, Niles offers a limited lifetime warranty for this speaker. Information is available on its Website.

Specs
Type: Two-way dome monitor
Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, trilaminate teteron
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6, carbon fiber
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 8
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 5-125
Available Finishes: White or black composite plastic
Dimensions (W x H x D, inches): 7.43 x 12 x 7.75
Weight (pounds): 7.5
Price: $460/pair

Company Info
Niles Audio
(800) 289-4434
nilesaudio.com

HT Labs Measures
Sensitivity: 88.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of the woofer) frequency response of the OS6.5 outdoor speaker (purple trace). The passive loudspeaker was measured with the grille at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input.

The OS6.5’s listening-window response (a five-point average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal and vertical responses) measures +1.80/–1.98 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal responses measures +2.32/–1.70 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 92 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 79 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.49 ohms at 208 Hz and a phase angle of –49.86 degrees at 129 Hz. —MJP

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COMMENTS
Toslink's picture

Hi, Mark:

Excellent article. I’d like to chime in on an approach to backyard audio that I rarely see advocated in publications—but one that I’ve had great success with. I work for a large audio-video-control retailer. About three years ago we made the switch from “8-ohm” speakers and amplifiers to commercial 70-volt speakers and amplifiers for outdoor sound systems where the client is looking for an immersive audio system that blends into their outdoor environment. The key advantage of a 70v system is it allows an almost unlimited number of speakers to be used-—provided the relationship between speaker power settings and amplifier's output wattage is adhered to.

We place the speakers very close together (~5ft to 6ft apart), generally on custom aluminum speaker stakes near ground level hidden behind shrubs at the perimeter of the yard with the speakers pointed into the listening area. This allows the system to "blanket" the listening area, with a near constant acoustic output through the listening area. Placing the speakers low and pointing into the yard helps keep the sound in the listening area, rather then projecting it into the neighbor's yard. A typical "large" system has between six and 25 speakers distributed throughout the yard.

We describe it as the “Disney Land Experience”, where their excellent outdoor audio system provides a near constant sound level as you walk through the park. This is accomplished by using more speakers with lower power per speaker vs. higher power and fewer speakers.

One additional advantage is since 70v is a “bus” system, where multiple speakers are wired (parallel wiring connection) into single 2-conductor speaker cable, a backyard can be wired with fewer cables compared with an 8-ohm system. Oftentimes, a yard can be wired with as few as one 2-conductor cable. This makes the installation of the speaker cable a snap. We always use direct-burial rated cable and we follow NEC electrical code guidelines to meet minimum burial depth requirements.

As far as brands go, we’ve had great success with the Crown and Extron 70v audio amplifier lines. For speakers, we most often use the JBL Control 25AV monitors. They’re excellent!

Just another angle to view larger outdoor audio systems. Perhaps the Home Theater readers will consider this approach. Or, perhaps this might make a good topic for an article in the magazine. Who knows, right?

--david

Jeff D's picture

I bought these speakers in early 2k, purchased at Best Buy, for around 50 bucks. They have 4" poly woofer, 2" cone poly mid and a 5/8" piezo mylar dome, with an all aluminum case and grill w/plastic capped binding posts, also non-ported design. The reason for the long explaination, didn't think they were still available, found online for six bucks!? These have been great speakers when you consider they're tiny size,and price. Still use them every summer, they are definitely waterproof, made the mistake of leaving them out all winter, still sounded great in the spring! We eventually bought three more pairs. I have tried them both ways, v. or h., liked verticle the best. I'm sure they are not aluminum anymore but at this price I could afford several pairs as long as they sound good, as you can tell I really like these. They are small enough to hide and still preform. Though, I will ask, are 70v systems expensive to put together, know what it is, just have no experience. Have really large yard, am considering the different options.

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