Ah, summertime — fun in the sun, outdoor play, water, libations, and celebration of life. Well, that’s assuming you’re not me. I hate heat, humidity, and bright light in general, so I don’t spent a lot of time outdoors during the summer months.
So you’d think I would have appreciated the cool, rainy week that followed my receiving both the 100 and 125 watt models of NXG Technology‘s new NX-AW series indoor/outdoor all-weather speakers — a cause for celebration in the middle of this miserable summer, to be sure, but also a source of frustration, because I don’t tend to get my best critical listening done in the chilly rain.
The frightful weather outside did give me a lot of time to break in and get to know the sound of these babies before I took them into the harsh, unforgiving jungle that is my back yard in August, though. The NX-AW series comes in three flavors: The NX-AW4 (75 watt, 4″ woofer, with 75 Hz bass extension) which I didn’t receive for review, the NX-AW5 (100 watt, 5.25″ woofer, 65 Hz worth of boom), and the mighty NX-AW6 (125 watt, 6.5″ woofer, 55 Hz) , and your choice of black or white.
The first thing you notice when pulling the NX-AW5 and NX-AW6 out of the box is that they feel incredibly solid, with exceptional build quality. These are heavy speakers, so when you’re mounting them — whether it be inside or outside — you’re going to want to make sure that you’re mounting them to a stud or another solid piece of wood. While the instructions show screws and mounting brackets to use, none of these are actually included in the box, so make sure you’ve got some universal mounting brackets or some 1/4″ 20-thread screws on hand before you start. If you’re mounting them up high, and lack additional appendages, I highly recommend you get someone to help you. While you might be able to one-hand the 100-watt AW5, it’s out of the question for the AW6. When (not if) you drop them, it’s going to hurt a lot (how I know this is classified and will not be on YouTube, ever), and it’s certainly not going to be good for your new toys. If installing them outdoors, the binding posts are tipped upwards in a normal installation, so make sure you either have a nice thick jacket on your cable, or that you take precautions to shield them from the wind and rain so nothing liquid or living gets in there.
These speakers are designed with music first and foremost, with a warm (if somewhat subdued) midrange, very nice highs, and tight bass response. Any time I’m running new sound equipment, I have a few torture tracks I put the system through, the first being the “Crash into Me” two-channel PCM track from Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall. The acoustic guitars offer a good mix of highs and lows, while not being too sonically busy that you can’t pick out the fine details like fret buzz. Both the NX-AW5 and NX-AW6 let some of those quieter bits like the fret buzz get a little lost in the mix, but it’s nothing objectionable, especially considering that these are party speakers.
Following that, I popped in a true torture test for high frequencies, a live track from the Japanese pop duo Chage and Aska. The track “Windy Road” is significant because it features a high tenor lead, with a high soprano doing backing vocals, and is mixed with a very “live” sound, so any tweeter that’s not up to snuff typically crashes and burns, turning the highs into a mud slurry in which the backing vocals get bogged down quickly. Both of the NX-AWs I tested performed admirably compared to similar speakers, leaving the lead and the backing distinct enough to easily pick out the individual parts.
Finally — in what I admit is an unfair test, since the odds of anyone listening to high-resolution anime movie soundtracks while sipping suds by the pool is minuscule, to say the least — I cued up the highest-resolution movie soundtrack known to man: the 192khz/24-bit 5.1 opening of Akira on Blu-ray. Chapter 2 is a tour de force of wood blocks, taiko drums, screaming, explosions, motorcycles, and other craziness that almost brought Dolby’s best compression engineers to their knees. Akira‘s strength lies in the music, which was recorded at a much higher fidelity than the rest of the soundtrack, and it runs across the entire spectrum while the “movie” elements sit squarely in the middle. The mellow midrange thinned these out slightly more than usual, but that’s really anal nitpicking from someone intimately familiar with this scene. With only two drivers and relatively small cabinets, both the NX-AW5 and NX-AW6 kick the pants off the majority of products in their size and price range. They have a powerful sound that will fill a room, if you’re using them inside, and a satisfying sound, at that.
The NX-AW series is designed first and foremost for one thing, though: to sound good when you’re outside having a barbecue, and to that end, certain acknowledgements had to be made to the reality of that situation. I had a lot of experience listening to bad audio outside as a child. When my father would enslave us for hours on a Sunday doing yard work, he would stick the speakers from our Sony stereo in the windows and blast us from his teenage vinyl collection. So I decided to replicate both the ideal, as well as the most traumatic aspects of my outdoor listening experience by simultaneously grilling delicious chicken, and reluctantly tackling the kudzu that had invaded the shrubbery, while listening to my teenage CD collection.
With the NX-AW6s mounted on the corners of my porch, and zeroed on the bushes and the grill, I was ready to go.
With so much air, and only the screen frame walls to give them any sort of boundary reinforcement, it was important to try to give the bass every surface I could to bound into the yard, and with the speakers under my porch eaves, it definitely helped to keep more of the sound traveling in the right direction. The sound, for the outdoors, was great, maintaining enough integrity not to wrinkle my audiophile nose, and being loud enough that if you wanted to have a dance party — or whatever it is that you people do outside when it’s tropical out and us civilized folk are hiding in the dark — you wouldn’t have any problems. I won’t get into specific cuts that I auditioned, because that would just be silly, but suffice to say that the sonic qualities that impressed me inside remained surprisingly consistent out of doors.
I highly recommend that when installing these speakers you use mounts with a swivel, though, so you can dial them in from more directional to more general spread if you plan on entertaining outside a specific area like a patio.
Swapping the AW6 out for the AW5 to give it a go in my 60-foot-long backyard, there was definitely a difference — a lack of oomph, if you will — so you want to put some thought into the distance you need the sound to travel before selecting which model to buy. A porch or a patio you should be fine for the AW5, but if you’re wanting to fill the yard with music, go for the AW6 model.
In the end, these speakers are pretty outstanding for their size and price. They sound wonderful outside, and, I have to admit, given that winter is almost here, I lament the fact that no one will be out there to hear them. So I’m thinking I’ll give them a warmer home in my indoor recording studio until the first terrifying, allergy-inducing buds of spring start to trumpet the return of next year’s blistering temps. I typically use headphones to monitor my band’s recordings, but I think finally I might have something that’ll do a solid job as monitors so I’m not tethered to the computer while I play. For an speaker intended for the outdoors, that’s a pretty darned good endorsement.