The Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 DTS-X Soundbar System event.
by Grant Stoner
January 13, 2018
Nakamichi presented a soundbar shootout at Leslie’s Audio Garage Emporium.
You may of course recognize the name Nakamichi, but it’s not the same entity. Nakamichi went out of business some years ago, but Rayman Cheng, a 30 year consumer electronics industry veteran bought the rights to the name for the next 20 years or so. So, it’s not the same Nakamichi that we all know and love, but I assure you, there is a definite commitment on Rayman’s part in terms of quality and a bit unlike the original gear, value.
So, after Leslie and I treated her garage acoustically with a rug and some well-placed exercise mats, Rayman, his family, and his Nakamichi staff, showed up to set up an AV viewing and listening palace. The shootout consisted of three video segments, three times in succession for each of the three representing soundbar systems. But the soundbars were hidden behind black cloth, so you couldn’t tell which was which, making this a truly blind shootout. We then rated them 1 – Good, 2 – Better, and 3 – Best. All had identical Blu-ray players (in fact Rayman had to go to Best Buy at the last minute to replace one of them) and all were kept at the same 85 dB sound level to provide a fair comparison.
The three selections we listened to consisted of the following: First up was: Amaze, basically a Dolby Atmos demo short featuring rain-forest, thunder, etc.; second up: the opening scene from Mad Max Fury Road in Dolby Atmos; and third, a section of Life of Pi in DTS 7.1. By the way, the projection screen that they set up had an incredibly sharp picture, making it a truly enjoyable home theater demo.
Now the systems:
Creative X-Fi: a soundbar and a sub with 2,000 watts max power, $5,799
Samsung HW-K950: a soundbar, wireless sub, and two rear speakers, $1,199
Nakamichi Shockwave Ultra 9.2 DTS-X Soundbar System: a soundbar, two wireless 10″ subs and 4 two way surrounds, $1,099
While not entirely unanimous, there was a definite preference. The Creative received zero votes for the Best sound. One thing to note is that the Creative has no surround speakers so the other two had an advantage on that front, unless you are specifically looking for a soundbar that is self-contained and has Karaoke inputs on the front. The Samsung system, at one-fifth of the cost of the Creative Labs, sounded better. A few gave Samsung top honors. It did have more solid bass and space, at least from where I sat, and where you sat seemed to make a difference to how people rated the top two soundbars. But to my ear and most attendees’ as well, the Nakamichi was a clear winner. While the Samsung system had nice airiness, the Nakamichi was a good bit more detailed, with tight but deep bass, more definition, and far better surround imaging. It really is an incredible value at $1,099. Rayman explained the direct marketing to us as a deliberate sales strategy. By marketing directly only on Amazon and Best Buy online platforms, he’s effectively cutting out the typical dealer markup and undercutting the competition. If he did traditional marketing and sold through brick and mortar stores, the price could be doubled.
There was a drawing at the end of the event and, Victor Poli, one of our lucky attendees won this Nakamichi system. We don’t have a picture of the winner as the drawing happened after many people had left the event.
All in all, this was a great event. Inevitably, at the end of the event, Leslie demoed the Mad Max video on her system. All were sufficiently impressed as Leslie’s system sounds better than most theaters. But, as Rayman dryly noted, “one of her cables costs more than the entire Nakamichi system”. Nuff said…