A combination of traditional folk art and science


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There are many loudspeaker companies but there are so few original ideas. If you look at 100 different loudspeakers, you are likely to see 100 pairs of loudspeakers that look more or less the same. They are all rectangular boxes. They are mostly made from MDF. Each of them will have a different story how they somehow are able to combine drivers, crossover and box into something better than their competition.

nOrh Loudspeaker believes that there are two aspects of building a loudspeaker cabinet that is often ignored. The first is the shape. Rectangles have all parallel sides. Sound will bounce back and forth in a cabinet. The driver creates energy inside the cabinet. This energy reflects off or is absorbed by the cabinet. The energy that is reflected can create standing waves inside the cabinet. If the driver and the rear of the cabinet are parallel, then the energy will be reflected back towards the driver. This energy works against the driver so that the driver has to work harder to create sound.

The shape of the speaker plays a major role in deflecting this energy away from the drivers, creating better airflow and reducing standing waves. Another area that nOrh Loudspeakers has explored is the impact that different materials have on sound. As we stated earlier, sound can either be reflected or absorbed. Physics tells us that we can't destroy energy, we can only convert it from one form to another.

The energy that is absorbed by the cabinet works against the driver. We do not want the cabinet to produce sound—only the drivers and port. Different materials have different absorption and reflection characteristics. Among the materials which reflect best are ceramics, cement and stone.

In our case, we took a completely different approach to building a loudspeaker. We decided to employ the skills used by ancient drum builders. We start out with a log that is more than 20 inches wide and drill out the loudspeaker. (Try this for a Do-it-yourself project). The resulting cabinet (we are still forced to call it that), is carved from a single piece of wood or marble.

Until we created the nOrh Loudspeaker, nobody had ever built anything quite like this. The basic idea came from observing the Thai longdrum. The Thai longdrum is not really suitable for a loudspeaker because its tail is -- too long. The Thai longdrum also does not have enough internal airspace to produce deep bass. To build the nOrh Loudspeaker cabinet, we spent over six months testing and trying out different designs until we finally came up with the final version.

First meeting with drum makers in Angthong to describe the project

NOTE: All the wood for these loudspeakers is acquired in accordance with Thai laws. Some of the wood comes from Burma. The Raintree that we use is a very fast growing tree so it is much easier to reforest than Teak or Rosewood. It is illegal to carve out Teak or Rosewood trees in Thailand.

The nOrh Loudspeaker is unlike any speaker cabinet. The loudspeaker starts with a wide mouth. It gradually tapers in diameter similar to the appearance of a jet engine. The back of the loudspeaker is a tuned port that is part of the cabinet. Some walls of some loudspeakers are only 1/4 inch thick. Most loudspeakers are 1/2 inch thick. The world's best loudspeakers are 3/4 inch thick. The sides of the nOrh Loudspeaker (including the least expensive) are 1 inch thick!

The cabinet is built from a local Thai wood that is known as the Raintree or Monkey Pod. This tree is a favorite for making drums. Thais use this wood for making furniture, drums, and musical instruments. The grain of the Raintree is spectacular. We chose the Raintree because unlike some tropical woods, the Raintree wood does not crack in cold weather. We take the precaution of having the wood bake in the sun and putting glue around all exposed surfaces. This will protect the cabinet from cracking due to climate changes.

The cabinet contributes to the unique qualities of the nOrh Loudspeaker more than any other component. The nOrh Loudspeaker is designed as a single unit that will behave in much the same way as a musical instrument. (As opposed to behaving like a piece of furniture).

There are no parallel surfaces in the nOrh Loudspeaker. This results in better transients and better dynamic range. Every book on loudspeaker design says that parallel surfaces should be avoided. Despite this, almost all loudspeakers have all parallel surfaces. We have none. Because most loudspeakers have seams and corners, they have stress points. The energy generated inside the speaker often causes these stress points to vibrate.

If the cabinet isn't braced heavily, then stuffing has to be put in the speaker. The purpose of this stuffing is to convert the sound energy into heat. Please understand that this doesn't mean the inside will get hot. It simply means that energy must be converted from one form to another. The nOrh Loudspeaker does not convert energy to heat deliberately. We use no internal stuffing or foam.

The port on the back of the nOrh Loudspeaker tunes the entire loudspeaker as if it were a musical instrument. The nOrh Loudspeaker produces a very wide dispersion pattern. The stereo image will remain stable no matter where you are in the room (so long as you are in front of the loudspeaker).

The first webpage artwork

Since we started, we have been plagued by seasonal shortages of wood. Very little wood can be harvested in the rainy season. The rainy season also makes it very difficult to properly bake an cure the wood. We spent several months looking for an alternative to wood.  We considered resins, fiberglass and many other materials.  The problem is that we have found that most of these alternatives simply aren't as pretty as our wood loudspeakers.  The problem for us is that we have a finite ability to produce loudspeakers from wood.  The wood has to be hand carved, baked, sanded, and finished.  It takes one month to turn a wood log into a nOrh loudspeaker.

We found and idea that we could built loudspeakers from marble from a German who owned the audio business in Bangkok. I didn't really think this was possible so I told him to make us some prototypes.  In about a month, he delivered some prototypes. I was simply amazed how beautiful these cabinets looked.  We made these into finished loudspeakers and listened to them.

The result was the marble cabinets were the best sounding cabinets we had ever heard. We got a 30% improvement in sound.  Marble has many problems. It needs to be cut with diamond tools. You need qualified stone masons to do the work.  Marble is heavy.  It is hard to screw loudspeakers into marble.  We decided to move forward even with all these challenges because the end product was the best sounding and best looking cabinets we had ever seen.  We decided to make these cabinets that could last for hundreds of years.

The cabinet will use solid steel rings to hold the drivers in place. The rings are cut with lasers.  The feet will be made either from solid stainless steel or brass. Our first idea was to use stainless steel from Germany.  The problem was that shipping the feet to Thailand proved to be too expensive.  We then decided to use solid brass and then plate the brass with chrome.

The marble baffle will be covered in leather.  The grill will be designed to be one of the only grills to be acoustically transparent.  The grill will be made from metal strings. All of these components will be custom made.  Every component is designed to last for generations.  I believe that nOrh marble loudspeakers will become treasures to be passed from one generation to another.  I doubt that anyone will ever attempt to build such a loudspeaker again.  I believe that the nOrh marble loudspeaker will set the standard that will never be exceeded for a loudspeaker cabinet.

We are now producing ceramic-based cabinets. There are many articles that describe the sonic benefits of ceramics. Ceramic loudspeakers are more expensive to manufacture than wood or MDF.

The Prism series is our newest series. These loudspeakers are designed to achieve all the goals of our drum loudspeakers but because we use MDF, we have the ability to create loudspeakers with more internal volume. The larger cabinets allow us to use more sensitive drivers and still achieve the same levels of bass response. This makes the Prism series ideal for receivers and integrated amplifiers. The Prism cabinet sounds better than conventional rectangle boxes.