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SBL mk2, worth a try?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Pine Marten, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Pine Marten

    Pine Marten pfm Member

    I've been contemplating giving SBL's a try, a pair of mk2's have come up for sale fairly local to me. My room is only 5m by 4m, 2.2m high, basically solid stone, concrete raft floor, thick fitted carpet, small ish window, its a wee cottage basically! Small squishy sofa. Currently run Epos ES14's, early ones, Monoblock 110s with NCC220 Qudos boards and minicap6 boards, 32.5 HiCap with teddyregs, LP12/Ittok(J7 rebuilt) DL110, Mose outboard psu, Sole sub etc CXC cd drive with Beresford Caiman SEG. The SBL's will have to go in the same place as the ES14's, approx 2m apart, listening position between 2-3m away. I can get them right back against the 3 foot thick stone wall.
    Impossible I know, but any SBL experience fishies opinion would help , before I take the plunge!
    Many thanks,
    p s musical taste quite wide ranging too, which doesnt help!
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    You need a good floor, a good solid back wall behind them and a lot of patience setting them up (good box seals etc are essential). With those in place they are great in small rooms IMO.
  3. suzywong

    suzywong The Man who had no Naim

    Don’t be coy, you know the answer.

    You will either like what they do, or not.

    If you like what they do then you will inevitably develop an itch to take them active, and then the dark one will have claimed another soul.

    OTOH, the music’s good!

  4. wylton

    wylton pfm Member

    Being a bit of a flat-Earther myself, I loved them and I would say that your system is made to measure!

    For whatever reason, I never really got them singing in active form; currently I'm running active Linn Kans, which do work very well, with a NAP 250 and a ZAP 250.

    They are though, one of the few loudspeakers that I would go back to and I have on occasions, contemplated doing so; they have all of the advantages that small loudspeakears can offer, with the benefit of the extra bass given by the bottom acoustically loaded box and they take up no more room than the Kans.
  5. SamS

    SamS pfm Member

    For what they seem to go for 2nd hand these days probably not a lot of risk trying.
    Your room and system ticks all the boxes and they are the natural progression from the ES14s. I progressed 20 years ago and the SBLs have stayed and seen in amp upgrades from 250 to 135s to 500 and continue to shine with any amp / source improvements.

    Setup as you know is key and if you can find them Mana bases are helpful. In my case in dealing with a suspended wooden floor but I think generally they help tighten up the sound, image and clarity. But on your floor may be less necessary.

    It would be sensible to tighten the bolts around the mid/bass driver if you can get your hands on a 3.6 Nm torque screw driver or at least make sure they aren't loose but don't go too tight without the proper tool.

    IIRC the first thing that hit me when I replaced the ES14s was the bass. Where the hell had that been hiding all these years!
  6. manicatel

    manicatel pfm Member

    Buy them at a good price & if it turns out they're not to your taste, you'll sell em on easily enough with little or no loss.
    In a small room, close to a rear wall & with your existing system, they may well work nicely.
    They'll be different to ES14's, so what is it about your existing speakers you want to improve?
    Lastly, set-up with SBL's can be a bit fiddly & very critical. A couple of inches either way can make a big difference, far more than with other speakers I've owned. They should be dismantled to transport them & then the seals between the boxes re-made. Theres bound to be guys on here that can guide you through that, but it is definitely worth spending time & patience on to make them sing.
  7. divedeepdog

    divedeepdog pfm Member

    I went from Es14's to SBls, regret selling them but as another Avondale fan the RMSRevelations had to stay.

    Sbl's do bass like nothing else's I've heard, but expect subtlety and tunes rather than deep boom. I used them with mono 110's, latterly with ncc1.4. A good match
  8. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed pfm Member

    Just a thought here. Your 14s shouldn't be against the wall, and theoretically should image better, as well as having a 'warmer' presentation.. I found the SBLs to be very good, but with a 'cool' presentation. The ProAcs I had afterward were chalk and cheese in this respect.

    NB My SBLs were probably mark ones, though
  9. manicatel

    manicatel pfm Member

    From memory & it was a long time ago, the mk2 SBL’s bass end went a bit deeper & cleaner compared to the earlier version.
  10. doctorf

    doctorf left footed right winger

    My SBLs were pretty average when passive.
    Brilliant when active.
  11. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    If I didn’t have SARAs I’d be giving SBLs a try.
    They are bargain prices now as well.
  12. garyi

    garyi leave blank

    Bargain price now and a speaker I still miss after some years. They don't need to be active to be good, but they do need a back wall!
  13. Pine Marten

    Pine Marten pfm Member

    Thanks for the input so far. My ES14's are away from the wall only about 20cm. I ran the 32.5 with a single 110 for many years and found the bass could be a bit boomy and confused at higher levels. About 3 years ago, I rediscovered the hi-fi bug, having had to give up motorcycling owing to health reasons, I had some spare cash. I've been gradually upgrading and improving things, first a Hi Cap, then servicing it, building the monoblocks, playing with cap swapping and mods, teddy-regs et,c to the stage Im at now. With each upgrade the ES14's just got better, more detail, air, composure, control and tightness in the bass, for example. If anything the bass is now a touch light, but so much better in quality. No boom, tuneful but not overpowering, subtle would be a good description. I love the sound my system makes. I would hope a good well set up pair of SBLs would just add a degree of polish, add a little more tuneful authority and extension in the bass. I like a decent attempt at a three dimensional soundstage, it is this aspect of the SBLs performance that I've read can be lacking. Down to poor setup perhaps?
  14. Jonboi

    Jonboi Because Music Matters

    No, they are designed to go within 100mm (4 inches) of a solid back wall for correct bass loading. In turn, this means early reflections in the mid and highs from the wall, and standing waves etc, will mess with the 'attempt at a three dimensional soundstage' The result is still very pleasing musically as a speaker, but it is more a forward wall of sound, rather than a soundstage with large amounts of depth and width, height etc, with instruments and vocals placed precisely within - that is not a strength of the SBLS.

    However, they have superb bass in terms of pitch definition, and in room down to a comfortable 25 hz or so - from memory they're around 8db down at 20hz.

    I have a pair of Mk 11's in walnut, bought new, along with some Mana speaker bases - the speakers were always lightly covered when not being used, used in a pet and smoke free homes, and if someone in Australia is interested, I may agree to sell them to the right local buyer. PM me if the thought interests you.

    In his July 1997 review of them in HFNRR Martin Colloms opinion that they were one of the best speakers money could buy.

    They have their flaws, but what they do right is magnificent - I ran them with my Sony TA-DA9000ES digital amp after finding it outperformed my then Naim electronics, (also bought new about 18 months before choosing the SBL's as the best 'match'), - which after about a year of discontent swapping back and forth with the Sony I sold off - but still have the Sony amp and speakers a decade plus on - the SBL's are a hard act to follow given their strengths and overall musical satisfaction.

    At the time I purchased them, one of the speakers on my shortlist was the Epos 14 - another favourite of mine. I had them home for a weeks trial, but as an pipe organ enthusiast, found the bass lacking in extension and pitch definition at very low frequencies - the SBL's outperform the Epos 14's quite noticeably in terms of low bass extension/pitch definition, but also detail everywhere, and a bigger, richer, and more dynamic sound presentation overall. Once heard, I couldn't go back to the Epos 14's, excellent speakers though they are.


    Cheers :)
  15. Naimngame

    Naimngame pfm Member

    I love my SBLs and don’t find them as challenging as some others have. I have always had them pretty close to walls, but bought them second hand and have not reseated the speakers. They do not pass the “push test” yet everyone who has heard them (including a guy who only trades in naim hifi) think sounds fine. I decided not to tinker when I couldn’t find fault.
    I must admit taking them active brought a full new level to the bass in particular but they’d always sounded decent from day one.
  16. dave

    dave Plywood King

    FWIW, JV once said broken seals were rarely the problem with underperforming SBLs. It was more often caused by the bass driver cabinet rocking atop the lower floor bass cabinet due to a spike or spikes puncturing all the way through the aluminum pads and digging a hole deep into the wood (usually caused by moving the assembled speaker incorrectly or an initial setup fault as I experienced below) . ANY amount of bass driver cabinet wobble no matter how little is too much as the driver cabinet is now only supported by a flexing silicone seal.

    If you don't get this part right the SBLs will sound like a giant pair of out of phase Kans with exaggerated and distorted one note bass. I can attest to this being a huge problem when I ignored his warning and mine simply weren't pushed down enough to penetrate the pads just enough so the bass driver cabinet sat firmly on all four spikes. (This must be done while the silicone is still wet.) The reason for the alum pads is to compensate for manufacturing tolerances with two wood cabinets tightly coupling only at four points per the design goal and provide a guide for repeatability in setup should a tear down and move be required in the future.

    It's not hard to get this right, just attention to details per the included setup instructions and the only way you'll get the best sound out of SBLs.
  17. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed pfm Member

    Not really. Back to the wall speakers do not give the 3D soundstage (imaging, really) that other speakers in free space are capable of. Horses for courses, and each design has its strong and weak areas. Briks, e.g., give a fabulous 'wall of sound' presentation, with tremendous authority (if powered adequately) but little else (i.m.o.); ditto Saras et al.

    I think you'll find, having slowly improved your amplification by degrees, that your 14s have a lot more to give with more beefy power; a 250, e.g., although 20 cm out from the walls is barely sufficient i.m.e. I assume they're on substantial stands.
  18. molee

    molee pfm Member

  19. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    Worth a try, at one point I had Kans, Saras, 14s, and SBLs in the house; they all do similar things in that flat earth way.

    The room is key, less so for 14s.

    SBLs are VERY fussy to set up as has been noted above but can be a superb speaker, good fun to take active with a 4 pack, knock it all down and pop in a Nait 2 and MKI Kans!

    Good to see Dave above, hope all is well my friend.
  20. Stuart Frazer

    Stuart Frazer pfm Member

    I'm not sure 250/135s is necessarily the route to take here. I would think the mono 110s will give an adequate account on the SBLs. As others have stated, setup is key and going active can really make them sing. An active 110 mono 4 pack could be a very nice system.

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