Review: KARRI acoustic Nullaki Loudspeakers
Let me start this review by simply saying that I’ve got a “thing” for home-grown HiFi manufacturers. And why wouldn’t I? Australia has a rich history in high fidelity audio and some of our brands are world-renowned. Think Continuum, Osborn Loudspeakers, Burson Audio, Halcro and so many more.
So when I was contacted by KARRI acoustic early this year, I was excited with the prospect of being among the first in the world to not only write about a new Aussie start-up, but also a world first in reviewing their current flagship loudspeaker, the NULLAKI.
Designed and hand-crafted in Western Australia, their range (which currently consists of just three speaker models at present) breaks the mainstream ‘monopole’ mould, opting instead for a ‘dipole’ design for both the midrange and tweeter. To better understand what that means, I’ll quote the KARRI acoustic website:
Monopole is the most common speaker design; the radiated sound field is primarily forward and to the sides.
Dipole (often referred to as ‘open baffle’) design means the radiated sound field to the back of the speaker is out of phase with the front of the speaker. This produces a unique acoustic short circuit to the sides of the speaker, to which there is a radiation ‘null’. As will be seen further below, this can be put to very good use in controlling reflected sound within the room.
There’s pros and cons in all methods and designs of reproducing sound, and we’ll discover the trials, tribulations, but also the moments of pure joy living with the NULLAKI in our acoustically treated demonstration room over the last few months.
Karri is a native Australian hardwood, found in the southwest corner of Western Australia. It is used exclusively on the KARRI range as a veneer on the cabinets, while the waveguide assembly is produced from Jarrah. Both timbers are of the Eucalypt variety; it doesn’t get more Australian than this.
NULLAKI is a 3-way loudspeaker, consisting of a bass reflex cabinet with two 8” SB Acoustics woofers, ported through the base of the enclosure. Bottom firing ports typically allow for more flexibility in room placement, but more on that later. The cabinet itself features a 32mm front baffle, and curved sides with immaculate attention to detail and quality of workmanship. Naturally the use of real timbers means that no two speakers will look the same, complete with minor imperfections in the grain, which in my view just adds to the authenticity of the finished product.
Perched atop the cabinet we find the dipole midrange and tweeter assembly that is the KARRI acoustic statement. Once again the workmanship is proudly displayed in the waveguide which houses the open baffle mounted 6.5” SB Acoustics midrange driver, and a forward facing 29mm ring-radiator tweeter. A 19mm rear firing tweeter completes the driver line-up, with all drivers cleverly housed with concealed wiring; a design feat in itself.
I’d had loads of phone conversations with Troy Hughes, the Principal and Head of Design at KARRI acoustic over the past months. With a background in electronics engineering and psychology (part of me always wondered if I was being psychoanalysed while we were talking), Troy talked of his love for audio reproduction and music, deciding to give away gainful employment in the lucrative mining industry to pursue his dream of manufacturing high quality, but affordable loudspeakers. Needless to say, he’s already realising his dream and by all reports is already enjoying early success with KARRI acoustic.
With this background, Hughes says:
The concomitant of this is a focus on psychoacoustics, and especially spatio-temporal perception. This is a speaker that, in addition to having the direct-radiating accuracy that one would and should expect, is incredibly controlled in terms of achieving accurate aural perception – which is, after all, our end goal.
By design, the NULLAKI arrangement provides acoustic nulls in the areas in which we wish to avoid reflections, yet maintains a balance of direct and ambient sound that is balanced, well-timed, and well-placed. By so highly controlling the dispersion of the speaker, the speaker interacts much more ideally with the room. In addition, we remove all box colouration, which is evident in the very fast, highly detailed midrange and treble response. The presentation of the decay of a cymbal, for instance, can be quite striking.
Troy’s inspiration for the NULLAKI was predominantly orchestral instruments. This reportedly flowed through the design process, and is now apparent in the lovely wood finishes and organic shapes.
On the business front, KARRI acoustic have adopted a model that is not new to the Australian market, selling direct via the internet. Akin to the age-old model used by Osborn Loudspeakers and many other Australian manufacturers, it keeps the price low and allows the designer and owner of the company to communicate directly with customers, offering true support and service, which is important to Hughes.
NULLAKI are priced at a very reasonable $6,595.00 including free delivery in Australia, along with a 14 day home trial program. Conditions of course apply.
StereoNET’s Founder and Publisher, born in UK and raised on British Hi-Fi before moving to Australia where he worked as an Engineer in both the audio and mechanical fields.
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