News

10 Dec 2012

Nexo STM: Is the CX story fair and reasonable?

Now we’ve recovered from the Behringer X32 excitement, it would be fair to throw the Nexo STM into the conversation circle that is CX.

Matt Girgis starts the ball rolling. “As a long time reader of CX I’m pretty shocked about your article on Nexo STM in the latest issue. I was at that launch and the PA was unreal. Sounded amazing, the rigging was way better than anything I’ve ever seen and the event itself was just great. I don’t understand your negativity.”

So: here is our story from the December edition of CX Magazine. Please DO chime in and tell us what YOU think! Fair, unfair, reasonable, unreasonable, balanced, unbalanced, negative or not! If you’ve seen and heard the system, even better!

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Nexo STM: New Nexo concept has big launch

By Julius Grafton

French audio firm Nexo have started a comeback and via distributor Group Technology launched an assault on the wallets of the Australian live audio community this spring. After a development lag that saw various GEO line array products (GEO-T, GEO-S, GEO-D) languish in sales, a Yamaha investment and some fresh thinking led to the Nexo STM.

STM is a reasonably compact line array design that attempts to recapture the glory days of Nexo Alpha, the point source 2 box system that sold boatloads in the late 90’s and is still on sale today. They say the STM allows modular deployment so one design could be used for a small show, and scaled right up to arena coverage.

The selling proposition is that an audio rental firm now only need one model of line array, instead of several. Some firms have small, medium and large format line array elements and subs. Nexo says STM does all these tasks.

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While the theory is sound, the practicality is that the system ‘appears’ expensive to acquire – a fact CX could not verify due to continual evasiveness as to prices. Despite the insistence of importer Group Technologies that prices had not been established, a complete system was already sold to local firm Monitor City in Melbourne.

Hopefully CX is incorrect, and the price points are affordable. But the evasiveness is uncommon in our experience, since all other system distributors are generally open to us about price. We all know this kit can be expensive, and that audio rental firms buy with an expectations of five good years and then more to come as the gear is downgraded from A list to B list.

“They are asking us to buy a house”, one of the invited audio guys at the STM launch said, which is true of any top end line array, rigging and electronics package these days. But he didn’t actually know the prices, because as Group Technologies boss Mark Ladewig says, it is ‘POA’.

INSIDE STM

Key to the promise of STM is the two box combination of M46 main module, and B112 bass module. Generally you’d fly or ground stack a column of main modules, and match them one-to-one with the bass module in a second column. But Nexo says a second column of bass modules could be arranged, so you’d have three vertical columns where extra bass projection is the objective.

There is an additional S118 sub module that can also be flown, or ground stacked. In common use, the main and bass modules alone should suffice for most forms of music.

Cabinet loading has the not-wood-but-composite M46 loaded with 4 mid/low drivers of 6.5 inch diameter, and four high frequency devices. The equally sized B112 bottom box has a 12” driver inside. The S118 (taller, made from wood) has an 18” in there, as you’d guess from the model number.

Missing at the launch was the M28 omni module, a downfill box that carries a very lofty performance promise as it goes from 60hz to 20khz and disperses 120 degrees wide.

NEXO say the low and mid drivers all new – without disclosing the heritage of the high frequency drivers.

Then there is the rigging system. This is without doubt very good – promoted as super quick to deploy, and in the on field demo at Group Technologies partner Peter Thoms’ farm, it was indeed quick to deploy. Launch client Monitor City say they will save 20 minutes setup time, plus some de-rig time at the end of an arena gig.

We wouldn’t buy that it is the ‘best rigging system’ yet released – the Adamson Energia could hold that title, in our view. But the Nexo system sure is sweet – from dolly stack to flown in fast time, plus with the ability to lock additional columns together. In a very wide deployment, you could fly four columns – to give up to 180 degrees of coverage.

With box weight around 55kg for top box and bottom box (there is some ballast in the bottom box to equalise weight), the handling and shipping bill on STM is a plus.

THE AUDITION

Nexo and Group Technology pulled out all the stops. Summonsed to GT HQ in Melbourne, CX was flown 45 minutes in a helicopter with the other media guy from Audio Technology magazine, to the farm of Peter Thoms. There we were offered beef and chicken and given a private audition. Back on the Jetranger, we met with the main party of audio guys (no girls) at GT for the formal release process.

After lunch we all got on a bus and transferred to a country resort, where an afternoon presentation was held to show off the 45 N12 wedge – a fairly unique concept that definitely goes loud.

We were well looked after – a nice dinner, lots of booze, log fire and a good standard of accommodation all set the scene for the on-field demo next day.

Bussed out to the farm, it was a repeat of what I’d experienced the day before, but this time with 20 audio guys to bounce impressions off.

We heard combinations of boxes – top and bottom flown, with and without floor subs (there were 14 RS 18 Ray subs in place) and then the two S118 subs with two top and two bottom boxes, in a ground stack configuration.

Someone had deemed long single audio tracks were appropriate, so we enjoyed or endured a seven minute long Paul Simons Ladysmith Black Mambazo vocal collaboration, followed by a Dire Straights track of some length. These being the same as the previous day’s offerings, I had the chance to mentally compare.

A rock track completed the listening.

The demo was run near the top end of the amplifier ability. In some passages, I observed amp limit lights.

The subjective quality of the aural experience was debated by many present. No one thought the system sounded poor in any way, some picked the headroom had run out, and everyone thought there were good to great aspects of the audition. This is what you expect with a new system and new technology.

My impressions: as provided, the system ran out of power a bit early.

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HOW WILL THIS FARE?

Nexo’s transition to line array started well with GEO-T, but seemed to stall. The main Australian GEO convert was Bruce Johnston of Johnston Audio (now part of JPJ Audio in partnership with Jands). He toured GEO-T and GEO-S but became disillusioned with, he says, high frequency diaphragm failures and his perception of lack of support. He exited Nexo in favour of d+b and never looked back.

The other mega large live audio player in Australia is Norwest Productions, with facilities spanning six time zones from New Zealand to West Australia. Norwest founder Chris Kennedy attended the Nexo launch and expressed satisfaction with the sound, and the concept. But he says they have no plans to buy this system, as they are too committed elsewhere.Image

While the marketing plays hard on the ‘one system does all’ concept, we don’t think it does. There are questions as to throw, and power. Taking one pair of boxes – M46 and B112 – when you combine the loadings, you have 1 x 12”, 4 x 6.5” and 4 x high frequency devices. My math says this is light on bass, so the two column model of B112’s with one column of M46’s becomes almost mandatory for anything more demanding than Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The pairing of (not STM) sub cabinets as in the demo didn’t jive either. What we heard from the S118 says you would, of course, use these for sub bass support.

In electronics land, the impressively packaged Universal Amp Rack loaded with the 4 channel NXamp is eye candy and a geeks delight. It allows fast change of format, and appears to reduce the chance of engineer fiddling.

Here’s the thing. STM won’t start to appear on the top end riders anytime soon where d+b J Series and L-Acoustic K1 rule the roost. People won’t put it alongside Adamson Energia either, because it would be outgunned for power before sunrise.

The hearts and minds of up-and-coming production suppliers will be tested, we suspect, by the price tag. We hope we are wrong, and that it is not expensive, but the evidence points to a large investment.

Nexo says one STM system will do the work of many and lead your rental company back to profitability.

This remains to be seen.

(Comments invited)

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