NEARly New Outdoor Speakers

No, they’re not stylized Daleks from Dr. Who or PVC termite mounds. The objects pictured above are actually a couple of pretty impressive all-weather speakers from NEAR. There are a couple of things that are newsworthy about these speakers, not the least of which is that they are the first environmental speakers designed by NEAR specifically for the consumer/custom installation market in about a decade and a half. In fact, it’s been exactly 14 years since NEAR last had a booth or display at a CEDIA EXPO.

Despite the fact that NEAR was one of the original high-performance, outdoor speaker manufacturers, NEAR’s design focus was shifted to the industrial/commercial end of the market not long after the company was acquired by its current parent, Bogen. Last year, however, the decision was made to have William Kieltyka, NEAR’s original founder and current Division General Manager, take the company back to its roots as a more consumer-oriented speaker company. The first models to appear as part of NEAR’s renewed custom-installation direction include the trio of outdoor full-range partial-burial speakers shown in the photo. These were joined on stage by a partial-burial 12-inch subwoofer plus four models of outdoor, full-range, bracket-mount speakers.

The three full-range, partial-burial outdoor speakers – called the IG 5, IG6, and IG 8 - along with the IGS 12 subwoofer are designed to be installed and used in both partial-burial (in which approximately two-thirds of the speaker cabinet is underneath the surface of the ground) and free-standing applications. The IG speakers employ NEAR’s UDIO (upside down/inside out) low frequency drivers. NEAR says “UDIO is an inverted cone diaphragm woofer driven by voice coils wound both inside and outside the former. With UDIO frequency linearity actually increases as signal level goes up.” The enclosures are made from Linked Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDP) and are “color-through” so chips and scrapes from garden tools or weed cutters won’t be noticeable. The top-mounted, three-layer, compound grille is lined with a “hydrophobic fabric” that is backed by a stainless steel mesh. NEAR says the speakers come with a 10-year warranty.

The full-range, bracket-mounted models - the LB4, LB5, LB6, and LB8 – are two-way, co-axial designs using custom-built aluminum-dome drivers. Each LB-series speaker also incorporates a unique, weather-resistant speaker wire connection terminal.

NEAR also introduced a 600-watt per channel, two-channel amplifier called the 6XL. The amp includes built-in, selectable high- and low- pass filters to use as the crossover in systems with subwoofers. The 6XL is designed to drive 70 Volt and/or 8 Ohm loads via a transformer-less output topography.

While I didn’t get the chance to listen to any of the LB-series speakers, the IG models I heard were extremely impressive. Kieltyka said he is hoping to begin shipping models to dealers as early as December of this year. Neither pricing nor official performance specifications were available at the press conference.