Two Days Discovering Nexo

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Nexo speakers over the past few years. I’ve listened to various of their models, and I’ve been impressed enough to recommend them for a couple of rooms, particularly given the outstanding support I’ve been getting from them.
But I haven’t really known the Nexo lineup; until I hadn’t had opportunity to listen critically and extensively to their whole selection of speakers.
I have now. 

I spent Monday of this week designing speaker systems for rooms using various software, and I was liking the way the Nexo speakers worked in the planning: the plans looked good, but what did they sound like?

The Cerritos Center in the greater Los Angeles area is an awesome building. We'd be using their main room (what a beautiful room!) the next day to try out the Nexo line arrays.
I had a .dwg model of the Cerritos Center, so I modeled out what various speakers would sound like in there. The weekend is sponsored by Nexo, so I focused on Nexo boxes, in this case, line arrays (Nexo has several). I liked what I saw in the computer.
The NX1 software was easy to work with, so I imported some smaller real-world rooms that I’m working on in the real world. Yep. Looked easy. Looked like the PS series might sound good.

I have to admit, there’s a fair bit of skeptic in me. Any box that promises me a rectangular coverage pattern (in this case, Nexo’s PS series) had better do more than just advertise well! It needs to offer actual rectangular coverage pattern. And more importantly it needs to sound good! But they sure looked good on the computer screen: a couple of boxes and a sub in a room that seats 400.
Nexo's PS series
(Apologies for the cruddy
cell-phone-camera photos.)
Finished the designs, closed the computer for the night, and  headed out for dinner with 40 engineers and another dozen or so from Yamaha/Nexo (Yamaha distributes Nexo in the US). Got to know a lot of these guys as human beings. Not a one of them was a jerk (and that’s kind of rare, when dealing with representatives of high-end gear!). For a large number of them, church audio is in their blood, not just professionally, but personally: they appear to live out what they teach during the week. I took it as a good sign.
Next morning, we head over to the Cerritos Center, where I met with head of audio Jack Hayback, and head rigger & carpenter, Rogan Gerard. We talked shop of course, and they took us on a tour of the facility. Then we started listening to speakers. We started with Nexo’s PS series. The speakers hang very nicely, but we listened to them on a pole, just above head height.
I fell in love.
Let me just cut to the chase: I never knew “Sound on a Stick” could sound that good. I measured 112 dB at the back of the listening room, and I have to say, it sure didn’t feel like 112 dB. We were playing vocal tracks (I got so tired of “Bird on a Wire” this weekend! I still don’t know the artist.), and it didn’t sound like a PA playing. It sounded like a woman there singing to me. Singing well.
Randy Weitzel had put up a very nice drum kit behind the speakers, and brought in a fine drummer to show them off. We listened to the same drum kit: voiced the same as the original kit, with zero EQ, zero compression: same drum kit, but more of it. We listened with speakers, without speakers. Even the little 8” 2-way sounded way bigger than it was.

(Note: I’m not big on stage monitors, but the Nexo wedges [45N?] were clear, loud, and were so tight in their pattern that even the drum overheads were in the drum monitor!)

The boxes' horns reportedly put out square pattern: I didn’t measure the exact edges of the pattern, but it sure seemed square to me. The coverage was clearly narrower on one end than the other; I could hear that. The previous days' computer exercises seemed to match real world applications.

Then we listened to Nexo’s Baby Line Array: the Geo-S8. An 8” 2-way box, in a couple of 12-box arrays. Pretty good! Clear, articulate, musical, at 90 feet. Fifteen hundred seats of modest folk music would be a fine fit for the baby line arrays, or a few hundred seats of music with teeth! I had done a project with another small line array recently; I'll bet these could have served that room at least as well.

Then we needed to pull these down so we could put up another array to test. We took down two dozen S8 boxes and hung two dozen S12 boxes in less than an hour. OK. I’m impressed. That was easy. Let's go to lunch.
Line Arrays:
Geo-D, Geo-T and Geo-12
(outside to inside)

After lunch, we came back and listened to the S12 boxes, the very boxes I had been using in the design software to fill the computer model of the Cerritos Center. It looked good in the model, though the room might have been a little toward the big side for these.

They fired them up, and behold: they sounded as the modeling showed: clear, articulate, in the entire room. Well, most of the room; the third balcony was a little weak, but the software predicted that. When we added the subwoofers, it was clearly nothing to complain about. Remarkably smooth. Remarkably even, throughout the room. I like those boxes. And yes, the room might have been a little toward the big side for these speakers. I will have no problem recommending these speakers for a medium size church, and they'll make it sound good!

We listened to the Geo-D boxes (it’s kind of weird, in that it’s pronounced: “G O D”). These are the main boxes for this room, and I can see why: effortless excellence. I walked the entire floor, and three balconies, and maybe a dozen of the loge boxes: the entire room sounded the same! It was a little (!) bit louder in some seats than it was behind them, but the voicing was clear everywhere. I’ve heard it said before, but it was true: there wasn’t a bad seat in the house! These boxes are amazing!

I had taken time to talk with Jack Hayback (away from the Yamaha/Nexo boys) about his experience with the Nexo Geo-D speakers, and how they compared to the two other brands before them. His eyes lit up! He had lots of good things to say, a number of stories, and he compared them to the two (other brands) that he had had before he got the Nexos. This was a sincerely happy audio guy!

More significant, the Lighting Director, John Palmer, told me how clear the audio was when he first heard them. (In my experience, it takes a lot for quality sound to impress the LD!)

Lastly, we listened to the Geo-T: the big dogs. These are the famous boomerang shape that you’ve probably seen on major arena tours around the world, and I can believe it. They shook me to my core at more than 100’, both in clarity and in the solidity of their sound. I can see why the Big Names tour with this gear.

Subs, in Cardioid (!!) configuration:
RS 18 & RS 15 
I suppose I should mention that all of the subwoofers for the line arrays – which were shaking my pant legs at 100’ – are cardioid subs. During the “fairly loud” cuts (think Sunday morning volume), we could hold a conversation on the stage behind the subwoofers. During the “concert level” cuts, not so much, but we were not overwhelmed on stage: I could have heard monitors easily. (The subs are even louder, about 3dB, in omni mode, but of course, much louder behind.) 

We actually spent the next two hours listening to this track and that (and “Bird on a Wire” on every speaker in the house!), listening loud, listening quiet, to all these speakers, not because we needed to, but because we wanted to. Big line arrays, sounding as good as I’ve ever heard, and more. I have never heard so much detail from James Taylor, Pink Floyd and even Rammstein, and several I don't know. I’m not used to describing Rammstein as “beautiful,” but I did this weekend!
It’s not hard for a big line array to play loud music well. But when they can play the same music softly and gently at 60 dB, with the same clarity as at 120 dB, then I’m impressed. It still had solid, believable 60 Hz bass guitar at 60 dB! I'm not used to that.
Summary: These are very good speakers. The entire lineup is worth paying attention to, and in my opinion, probably worth their not insubstantial cost. 

They are not the right speakers for everybody; they’re not inexpensive, for one thing.
Anything beyond the PS series probably need professional installation, and certainly need professional design. And while I haven’t seen it, I imagine there may be a  room that they just don’t fit well in. The PS series can handle aggressive worship music comfortably in a mid-size church, as can the Geo-8. The Geo 12 will do wonders in a large church. And if your room is big enough, the Geo-D will make it sing! The Geo-T is not, in my opinion, needed for anything much smaller than a stadium concert. 
But if you have some room in your budget for quality speakers, do NOT overlook Nexo.
(Obligatory plug: if you would like a speaker system designed for your room – and you have a budget for it, drop me a line, and we can talk about Nexo, or a dozen other lines. But we will talk about Nexo. At least for a little bit.)