Among the various ranges of outdoor speakers available to make your shrubbery sing, New England company NEAR has one key advantage — outdoor speakers are their entire focus.
We spoke with Pete Baker, President of BIG Corp (Baker International Group), who was recently in Australia representing NEAR with the Australian distributor Avation.
"So N.E.A.R. stands for New England Audio Resource", Mr Baker told Sound+Image. "It was founded by Bill Kieltyka [a former engineer with the high-end speaker company Bozak]. And all that NEAR has done for the past 30 years is focus on building exceptional outdoor speakers — tweak, perfect and improve — so any potential failure point is removed completely, or they’ve introduced more durable materials."
[We note, however, that NEAR did have indoor speakers in its earlier days — for example Stereophile reviewed the NEAR-50M back in 1992.]
"So for instance they use a spiderless driver design, since the spider is something that can can deteriorate or fail over time, so they removed that and they use magnetic liquid suspension instead.
"They looked at the traditional plastic enclosure and they made that more durable, rigid and inert, so it doesn’t colour the sound, and they inject mica into the polymer, along with colour and UV protection. I’ve had these speakers on my deck for three years under several feet of snow, and in the summer it’s 30 degrees, and I could put them out on a sales shelf and you simply wouldn’t know they’ve been in the elements for three years. They’re really really durable."
"Another potential failure point would be the basket or the driver, where the cone is typically plastic or paper. So metal is a much more durable material, but if you have a metal bowl and you bang it with a spoon it’s going to ring — metal’s better but you need to control it. So they replaced the butyl rubber surround with a more durable polypropylene, and tuned that specifically to dampen the cone resonance, so we don’t get any ringing or coloration even though we’re using a metal cone…
"They use stainless steel for the grille, with an oval design on the perforations, the water runs through there more freely and falls right off."
NEAR also has the amplifiers to drive its products — the 7XL Power Amplifier offers 2 x 700 watts/channel, while the 3XL offers 350 watts/channel. Both include digital signal processing options with 12-band parametric equalization, adjustable crossover filters, adjustable peak limiter, RMS compressor, plus phase and time delay for each channel. They can also operate each channel independently in low-impedance mode (4/8 ohms) or high-impedance mode (70V/100V distributed).
“So I have my sub running 8 ohms but my in-ground speaker running 70V on the B channel on the NEAR amplifier,” Pete Baker told us. “You can calibrate the DSP on the screen or use the PC application.”
NEAR is distributed in Australia by Avation: www.avation.com.au