In Sony’s new ES Series speakers, natural materials, hand craftsmanship, and advanced engineering collaborate to deliver the excitement of live sound in your home.
No matter what your taste in music, movies, or sound, the goal of every speaker is always the same: to recreate the ambience and excitement of the original performance. However, recreating every type of musical performance—from a world-famous rock band performing in a sports arena to a folk artist playing in an intimate coffeehouse—is a task very few speakers can accomplish.
Reproducing the natural sound of every different instrument, every different type of music, every different performer, and every different venue is exactly the goal Sony’s engineers set when they designed the new Sony ES-series speakers. The ES-series was inspired by Sony’s SS-AR1 and SS-AR2 speakers, acclaimed by audiophiles and critics around the world for their incredible fidelity and unmatched craftsmanship.
Yet the ES-series speakers are not merely more-affordable versions of the AR-series. In fact, the ES-series employs design concepts and driver arrays all its own—all in the pursuit of bringing the live music experience into your living room.
Meticulously crafted inside and out
One of the reasons for extraordinary sound quality of the SS-AR1 and SS-AR2 is the way the enclosures of the speakers are built, each one hand-made by a team of Japan’s finest woodworking artisans. Sony engineers knew that compromising on this construction quality would compromise the performance of the ES series, so they chose to build the ES series using the same methods, the same facility, and the same craftsmen who build the AR series.
Like the AR series tower speakers, the new SA-NA2ES ES-series speaker exhibits a precision and perfection few other speakers can match. While almost all other speakers are built on automated production lines with little or no human involvement, every single ES-series speaker is subject to repeated close examination, assuring that no flaw makes its way out of the workshop.
The I-Array: an innovative concept for high-frequency reproduction
Glance at the top of the SA-NA2ES tower speaker, and you’ll see an innovative technology exclusive to the ES-series: I-Array, a unique network of tweeters that was created to help the SA-NA2ES produce a broader, more enveloping soundstage—and a more faithful representation of a live music event.
The I-Array emerged because there’s no such thing as a perfect tweeter. Choosing a tweeter of a single size requires a compromise, as we’ll see below. With the SA-2NES, there is no compromise.
Larger tweeters can reproduce audio frequencies down into the upper midrange, and can thus blend smoothly with a midrange driver or a woofer. However, at the highest treble frequencies, larger tweeters tend to focus sound in a tight beam. This effect can degrade stereo imaging and reduce the natural ambience of a speaker, because most musical instruments do not focus sound in a tight beam.
Smaller tweeters disperse high frequencies more broadly than larger tweeters do, but cannot reproduce upper-midrange frequencies well. Thus, it can be difficult to achieve a smooth blend between a small tweeter and a midrange driver or a woofer.
The I-Array technology achieves the best of both types of tweeters because it uses both: a single 25mm (1-inch) soft-dome tweeter mounted in a vertical array between two 19mm (0.75-inch) soft-dome supertweeters. At upper midrange and lower treble frequencies, the 25mm tweeter assures a smooth blend between the I-Array and the midrange driver or woofer. At higher frequencies, the two 19mm supertweeters assure the broadest possible dispersion, the most natural stereo soundstage, and the most faithful reproduction of the original live event.
Through careful tuning, Sony engineers make the I-Array work like the single, perfect tweeter that speaker designers have always sought but never before achieved. Its broad, natural dispersion extends to 45 kHz, high enough to reproduce the subtlest details of the high-resolution digital audio formats preferred by audiophiles. The SA-NA2ES even reproduces the most delicate overtones of percussion, violins, guitars, and wind instruments, as clearly as you would hear them if you were sitting in the third row at Carnegie Hall or one of the front tables at the Village Vanguard.
Natural materials for the most musical sound
When considering speakers, audio enthusiasts often focus on the drivers. But the speaker enclosure itself is just as important. The air pressures generated inside a speaker enclosure are considerable, and the vibrations intense. This energy will degrade the sound if it finds its way through the enclosure and radiates into the room, making it readily apparent that the listener is hearing an audio system rather than a live performance.
One of the reasons the AR-series speakers earned so much praise was because Sony’s innovative materials and methods effectively eliminated unwanted radiation of sound into the listening room. This is why Sony chose to build the ES-series in essentially the same way.
The secret behind these speakers’ innovative construction? The use of Scandinavian birch for the enclosures. Scandinavian birch is renowned for its acoustical properties. It is extraordinarily sturdy, yet has a natural resonance consistent with the tonality and presence of fine acoustical musical instruments. The entire enclosure is constructed from Scandinavian birch, right down to the extensive interior bracing that stiffens the speakers’ front, back, and sides.
In comparison, almost all other speakers are made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF is an excellent choice for building low-priced speakers because it is denser and generally less resonant than other low-cost materials such as plastic. However, MDF is an artificial material that does not possess the long, strengthening fibers of real wood panels, or the natural, musical tonality of the Scandinavian birch panels used in the ES-series speakers.
The solidity of the SS-NA2ES is evident in its substantial mass. Even though this speaker stands a fairly modest 900mm (35.4 inches) high, each one weighs a surprising 32 kg (70.5 pounds).
Every driver treated with care
While the SA-NA2ES may appear to be a single enclosure, it’s actually composed of multiple sub-enclosures. The two 165mm (6.5-inch) aluminum-cone woofers are acoustically separated from the 130mm (5.25-inch) midrange driver, which is in turn acoustically separated from the tweeters in the I-Array. The reason for this complex internal construction is that for optimum performance, each driver must reside in an acoustical chamber tuned specifically to suit its performance characteristics.
Just as vital is the need to isolate the various drivers from each other. For example, the intense pressures generated by a woofer, if not properly controlled and absorbed, can affect the performance of a midrange driver, much as the loud, low-frequency sound of a nearby engine interferes with the sound of conversation.
The result is a speaker with remarkably rich and natural tonal characteristics at every frequency of sound. Whether the SA-NA2ES is reproducing a flute playing a pianissimo passage in a chamber music piece, or a kick drum furiously pounded by a heavy metal drummer, the timbre and dynamics will be accurate and lifelike.
The SS-NA2ES tower speaker, in depth
The top of the ES speaker line is the 900mm high SS-NA2ES tower speaker. Connected to a high-quality amplifier or integrated amp, the SS-NA2ES delivers a musical experience few other speakers can approach, with an enveloping, natural soundstage reminiscent of an evening at the orchestra—or a late night at your favorite jazz joint—or a really late night at a downtown dance club.
The precision and strength of the SS-NA2ES’s dual 165mm (6.5-inch) aluminum-cone woofers, combined with the exacting acoustical design of the woofers’ ported enclosure, allow it to reproduce the subtle finger plucks of virtuoso jazz bassists as well as the raw power of the most energetic rock bassists. The two woofers span the range from 45 Hz to 400 Hz. Covering the midrange is a 130mm (5.25-inch) paper-cone driver chosen for its low mass and overall natural sound. Above 4 kHz, the I-Array tweeter network takes over.
The SS-NA2ES’s multi-stage crossover circuit assures a seamless blend from the woofers to the midrange to the I-Array, without compromising power handling or dispersion the way less sophisticated crossover networks can.
In a musical performance, the musicians don’t have to worry about dynamics or soundstaging or ambience, because as vital to the music as those elements are, they occur naturally. With the SS-NA2ES, you don’t have to worry about them, either. It simply delivers the power and presence of the musical performance—any musical performance—with no audible artifacts or colorations that remind you you’re listening to a speaker rather than to a live musical event.
Going from stereo to 2.1 with the SS-NA9ES subwoofer
The SS-NA2ES’s dual aluminum-cone woofers allow it to handle even the most dynamic and powerful music recordings. However, delivering the realistic, couch-shaking bass that the most serious music enthusiasts crave requires a subwoofer. Very few subwoofers, though, can match the refinement and precision of the woofers in the SS-NA2ES. This is why Sony created the SS-NA9ES, a subwoofer specifically designed to augment the ES-series speakers.
For the SS-NA9ES’s woofers, Sony chose, not surprisingly, a pair of aluminum-come 250mm (10-inch) drivers, which have the same strong, rigid qualities as the cones in the SS-NA2ES’s 165mm woofers. Powered by a 500-watt amplifier, these 250mm drivers produce incredible punch and impact, whether the bass notes are coming from a 200-year-old Italian upright bass, a jazz drummer’s kit, or the deep synthesized bass tones in electronic dance music.
Knowing that some music demands intense deep bass, while other music requires delicacy and precision in the bottom end, Sony engineers created a unique feature for the SS-NA9ES that allows the subwoofer to suit any music or satisfy any taste. The subwoofer’s front control panel offers two distinct listening modes. One mode delivers maximum punch and pitch definition by directly powering both the front and rear drivers. The other mode produces maximum bass extension by terminating the rear driver internally so it works as a passive radiator, reinforcing the deepest bass notes. A simple adjustment allows the user to switch easily between modes.
Expanding on the ES concept
Of course, not every music aficionado has the space for a pair of tower speakers that measure nearly a meter high. This is why Sony created the SS-NA5ES bookshelf speaker, which delivers the musicality of the SS-NA2ES in a more compact package. Although it stands only 355mm (14 inches) high, its robust, 130mm aluminum-cone woofer and carefully tuned ported enclosure deliver powerful, realistic deep bass, while reproducing voices and other midrange sounds naturally. At higher frequencies, the I-Array takes over, matching the gorgeous spatiality and natural presence of the SS-NA2ES tower.
The SS-NA8ES center speaker brings the exceptional quality of the ES speakers into the world of home theater. It employs the exact same I-Array tweeter design used for the SS-NA2ES tower and SS-NA5ES bookshelf. To provide the midrange and treble, Sony’s engineers chose two of the same rugged, responsive 130mm aluminum-cone woofers used in the SS-NA5ES bookshelf speaker.
With the ES-series speakers, there’s a system to suit every need. A music-oriented listener wanting a compact system can choose the SS-NA5ES bookshelf speaker. An audiophile with a larger space and budget can choose the SS-NA2ES tower speaker. A movie lover can put together a home theater system with four SS-NA5ES bookshelf speakers, an SS-NA8ES center speaker, and an SA-NA9ES subwoofer. The dedicated home theater enthusiast might combine a pair of SS-NA2ES towers for front left and right, four SS-NA5ES bookshelf speakers for the surround channels, an SS-NA8ES for the center channel, and one or two (or four!) SA-NA9ES subwoofers.
An incomparable combination of finesse and force
Whether the listener is an audiophile playing a favorite old vinyl record, a rock fan playing CDs or high-resolution downloads, or a home theater enthusiast enjoying the latest action movie, the ultimate desire is the same: a sense that one is a part of the event, rather than a mere observer of the event.
Achieving this goal demands near-perfection in a speaker. It demands effortless dynamics with extremely low distortion. It demands natural tonality from the lowest bass notes to the highest treble frequencies. It demands an enveloping, realistic presentation from all sources. These are exactly the goals that Sony’s engineers set when they began designing the new ES-series speakers. And they are exactly the goals Sony has achieved.
- Custom content