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Compare Neptune

Remember that real-world performance is what wins, not necessarily numbers.

On this page we outline for you some competing products and list our advantages.  Neptune systems are designed to blend perfectly together as well as with your choice of video monitors and other components.  See our 'pricing', 'custom', 'kits', and 'video monitors' pages for ideas.  Working from our foundation of many years experience in the data processing and high-end audio/video business, Neptune designs specifically identify and solve the engineering shortcomings of even the best alternative products in the marketplace.  Through our logical and artistic real-world approach Neptune delivers superior solutions with natural, flexible and powerful results combined with cost-effective elegance.  The information below is divided into two groups, each with four sections...  More

Speaker Technology Ranking (1-4, 1=best)

1Brand & models

Neptune: Satellites, Centers, & Subwoofers

Sound Quality & Imaging

1

Customization & Flexibility

1

Simplicity

1

Neptune Satellites, Centers, and Subwoofers enable you to mix three great quality approaches to loudspeaker design (outlined in the three brands below) the same way painters use primary colors to create art.  They are designed as configurable 'platform solutions' like our Servers and Remotes.  A Neptune speaker system is modular, powerful, and simple to use.  You are not stuck with 'one sound' as in many competing products.  You can change the sound as your needs change.  The variable EQ, Damping factor, driver balance, dispersion and time alignment enable you to obtain a very wide range of sounds.

Of course, we build the stock Neptune system with our absolute favorite top-quality drivers, but like wheels on a car we also designed the system to accommodate a wide range of tweeters, 8" bass-mids and 18" subwoofer drivers so if you ever desire to venture into a very different approach it is easy and you will not need to sell your Neptunes :)

With great speakers the sonic events do not appear to occur concentrated around the locations of the speakers or happening in some other acoustic space.  With great speakers you are literally 'engulfed' in the sound and transported.  The sound surrounds you and spans the space between and around the speakers like a motion picture creating a powerful and continuous (panoramic) 'holographic' effect that is extremely entertaining.  Neptune gives you the proper tools to conveniently manage various factors that achieve these 'audiophile' results.  For more details about how Neptune Speakers work together, click HERE.

NOTE: Neptune Subwoofers use the same driver as in the Wilson XSDrivers are rather like wheels on a car and determine a bit of the 'handling characteristic' you could say - certainly not the 'end all' of performance but useful to understand.  The rest of a speaker is like the rest of a car - excellent wheels don't mean anything without a quality car attached to them :)  It's also like comparing strings and pickups on guitars, because much of the character also comes from the woods and construction of the rest of the instrument.  Neptune Satellites and Centers use 'Sonus Faber Style' drivers combined with more powerful Dynaudio-based motor structures to greatly increase their output capability.  Components are then combined with unique 'B&W / Wilson' style geometry for enhanced imaging and flexibility.  For more information visit our 'Satellites', 'Centers', and 'Subwoofers' pages.

2Brand & models

Wilson Audio:
Wamm, XS,
Etc.

Sound Quality & Imaging

3

Customization & Flexibility

2

Simplicity

4

Without a doubt Wilson Audio manufactures some of the best, most popular high end speakers in the world.  Many would say the very best, and certainly some of the most interesting.  They deserve special consideration here because of their 'benchmark' status.  People typically say things like 'Wilson Audio defines the high end', etc.  We like Wilson products a lot and have sold them and others for many years in the stereo retailing business.  We started Neptune to address some of the issues we found with other brands and combine that perspective with a fresh and pragmatic 'digital data processing industry' approach.  The sonic results with Wilson products can be really great, though a bit on the 'analytical' side and somewhat complex to use because of their interaction with source equipment, etc.

For about $16,000, you can combine two Neptune subs and satellites which will together deliver approximately equivalent sonic performance to the Wilson X-1 or Wamm, and provide additional flexibility.  The Neptune speakers employ powerful digital amplifiers built right in and can be conveniently combined with a digital Neptune Server/Remote setup.  We can build them with Corian cabinets if you desire (as outlined on our 'custom' page) for similar aesthetics for an additional $18,000, bringing the dual Neptune Satellite/Subwoofer 'Wamm equivalent' to $34,000 total.  Now of course if we tried to produce a Wamm replica it would cost about as much as the WIlsons.  We are talking about approximately equivalent sound quality and adjustability to the Wamm, not identical design philosophy and aesthetics.  The Wamm setup (pictured below) comes with an EQ for adjustment whereas ours employs variable crossovers, leveling, damping factor and phase controls.

Most people enjoy the 'sci-fi' aesthetics of the Wamm setup and refer to it as 'James Bond modernism'.  Much of that aesthetic comes from their mounting system which allows each subcomponent to be independently time-aligned.  Neptune speakers also have this and other features and achieve it with fewer parts.  Wilson cabinet walls are composed of 'Corian' style materials: a blend of bauxite (talc), and other natural minerals and various plastics.  Very expensive to manufacture, the end result is cabinets much like 'dampened cement' - very heavy and with quite acoustically clean sound.  The Wilson 'Watt/Puppy' combo is much smaller (not pictured here) and is currently the best-selling speaker system over $20,000.  While the Watt/Puppy system employs (depending on the year) plastic versions of Dynaudio, or French Focal Kevlar bass and midrange drivers and matching metal or Kevlar tweeters, their X-1 system employs mostly Focal and Seas drivers.  The Wamm (pictured above) employs Focal and Kef drivers plus a unique array of Phillips 'pizoplanar' hybrid tweeter panels (the square thing in the upper middle). 

The subwoofer section of the Wilson Audio Wamm employs two tall rectangular cabinets (seen in corner above) which each house one very high quality 18" JBL PA driver high in the air.  This JBL driver is a great-sounding driver but not as good as the Seismic Systems/Aura 18" sub driver they use in their XS model.  Wilson chose to go with a passive design for the Wamm sub section and because of this the driver is mounted high in the air to avoid 'image smearing' from leakage of midrange energy into the sub section.  To achieve a more streamlined appearance than the XS they employed the JBL driver which has a much shorter profile.  To work around both of these more costly alternatives to achieve great results, Neptune employs the superior (but much deeper) XS driver and orients it toward the floor for enhanced efficiency and streamlined cabinet aesthetics.  To avoid 'midrange leakage' and 'image smearing' problems associated that option in passive form, Neptune Subs are active and employ powerful 3 kilowatt digital amps built into each cabinet combined with flexible preamp sections that allow precisely variable crossover frequency, phase, and EQ.  The end result is roughly equivalent performance combined with reduced size cost.

NOTE: Wilson audio's very top model, the Wamm, employs the classic Crown EQ-1, modified slightly.  EQ is a very helpful feature when carefully used.  Neptune speakers employ both passive and active wide-band EQ and our Servers and Remotes allow comprehensive EQ of every output in the digital domain for great clarity and realism.  Our favorite amps to use with WIlsons are McIntosh and Sonic Frontiers amps and preamps.

3Brand & models

B&W: Nautilus

Sound Quality & Imaging

4

Customization & Flexibility

3

Simplicity

3

Many B&W speakers have great holographic imaging and clean, balanced sound.  Bowers & Wilkins speakers (B&W) was started by an audio store in England to better meet the needs of their customers.  They have grown over the years to become one of the more popular and respected brands in the industry.  We like the results obtained with B&W products, especially when combined with very high power Mark Levinson style (or other high current) amplifiers because together they are able to generate the airy 'holographic' sound that is so very impressive but expensive to obtain (unless you use Neptunes - then it's easy :)

B&W designs their own drivers and are widely known for their distinctive yellow Kevlar bass-mids and metal top-mount tweeters.  We at Neptune prefer the natural sonic texture obtained from 'Sonus Faber' style driver designs (outlined below) and worked to enhance this by adding the adjustability, imaging, and slam (power) of the best from B&W and Wilson to achieve 'Neptune Sound'.  Keep in mind that all items listed here are top-class and this is like comparing Lamborghinis to Ferraris and Porsches, etc. 

The current flagship of the B&W line is the 'Nautilus'.  Shaped like a spiral seashell, it is a sealed passive multiple metal driver system.  They apply a similar approach in rest of their current line.  Our all-time favorite B&W models are the 'Silver Signature' and it is easy to see how we blend some of that vibe with classic Sonus Faber and Tannoy tapered cabinet stylings.  P.S.: Tannoy is another great brand used in tons of top professional recording  studios.  We are trying to keep this down to a short list :)

NOTE: B&W makes a LOT of different models and they change just about every year.  If you want to learn about their sound we recommend you audition a variety of B&W models combined with various amplifiers because results can vary widely.  Our favorite amps for use with B&W are any very high current, high damping factor amplifiers with at least 300 watts per channel because many B&W designs employ some sealed enclosures, leading to a rather 'compressed' sound unless driven with adequate amplifier power.

4Brand & models

Sonus Faber: Amati Homage

Sound Quality & Imaging

2

Customization & Flexibility

4

Simplicity

2

The greatest loudspeakers are not necessarily the most expensive.  Of all the brands out there nobody merges classical elegance and high performance the way Sonus Faber does.  Their approach is unique and aside from Neptune they are our favorite speaker brand.  Where other brands like Wilson and B&W impress with modern design and 'resolution', Sonus Fabers impress with their 'romantic elegance'.  They are sexy :)

What we like most about Sonus Faber is their relaxed, natural sound.  It is an engaging and sophisticated sound that people can listen to hour after hour without fatigue and has a glow to it that really holds your interest.  It is what people commonly refer to as 'smooth', or 'classic and warm'.  Be mindful they produce quite a wide range of models that change year-to-year and some are superior to others.

In their wide range of designs Sonus Faber employ drivers from Scan Speak, Scanning, Vifa and Dynaudio with tweeters from Audax and others (Audax is a Harman brand as is JBL, both used in Wilsons).  Sonus tend to choose drivers for an even and natural sound without harshness, whereas Wilson and B&W select more for slam and resolution - but somewhat at the expense of that engaging 'glow'.  Sonus Faber are fine acoustic musical instruments, whereas B&W and Wilson and many others are more like fine electronic musical instruments.  This analogy also applies in part because the Sonus line, like acoustic instruments, cannot play as loudly as the competitors mentioned.  We have addressed this in Neptune speakers so you can obtain the 'Sonus Sound' combined with enhanced clarity and imaging as well as greater output capability.

NOTE: Sonus Faber's natural sound mates well with just about any amplifier and in our experience they perform best with moderate power tube amplifiers.  Neptune Satellites include built in high-resolution digital amplifiers and employ variable damping factor controls for the various drivers to mimic much of the 'tube tone' one can get through changing various tube amps and so on.  We prefer setting Neptune controls to combine 'transistor slam' in the sub-lows with warm mids and smoothened highs but you can adjust the various EQ and damping controls to create flavors of your choice.  It can be a lot of fun to explore!  More

Source Equipment Technology Ranking (1-4, 1=best)

1Brand & models

Neptune Servers & Remotes

Quality & Size

1

Customization & Flexibility

1

Convenience

1

For a long time the server market has been more on the 'industrial' side because few have taken the challenge to create a truly high-performance yet user-friendly system. With Neptune, however, the process is simple for you because we take care of all the details for you and configure everything to your exact system requirements as you specify them to us. We build them to order. Give us your requirements and we deliver to you a super-fast pre-configured rock-solid system that will outperform the 'rack gear' competition.

Because Neptune Servers and Remotes comprise a modular system based on digital data processing architecture, they offer a wide array of options. Neptune's modular architecture gives you the flexibility to meet your current requirements and easily adjust to changes you may desire in the future. Define your application to us and we will build it from the ground up with the exact professional studio quality electronics necessary to suit your needs.

Your customized and pre-configured Neptune Server / Remote system will deliver performance equivalent to high-end 'rack based' gear while adding additional flexibility and performance features not found elsewhere, all in a convenient & compact size.  For more technical-oriented detail about Neptune Servers, click HERE.

NOTE: There is a lot of additional information about our Server and Remote products, and other Neptune products on this web site.  For more information visit our 'Servers' and 'Remotes' pages.

2Brand & models

Sony High End

Quality & Size

2

Customization & Flexibility

2

Convenience

4

Sony began it's 'life' as a small transistor radio manufacturer in Japan and has grown to become what could accurately be called an 'electronics industry giant'.   Their name is  ironically underrated because people often confuse their 'mass-fi' lines with their 'high-end' lines.  Sony gear typically has some of the best price to performance ratio and their higher lines are used heavily in the studio market to record, generate special effects, edit, and mix content for sound and video.  We at Neptune prefer a more 'heavyweight' approach than Sony where amplification and speakers are concerned, however.

A substantial portion of all commercial recordings are run through Sony equipment at some point in the signal chain.  For example, Sony builds video cameras that have equivalent resolution to film and are used to help produce popular movies such as 'Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones' entirely in the digital domain.  Sony also manufactures a wide range of far less expensive cameras with lower prices and lower performance, but still a good value. 

The same philosophy applies to other equipment in the Sony portfolio, including their computer lines.  The key when considering Sony is to keep in mind 'what type of Sony' you are discussing - the 'high-end' or the 'mass-fi'?  That said, Sony makes by far the most flexible 'rack based' alternative to a Neptune system.  In fact they have gone almost entirely digital and software based in some of their newer 'stereo rack gear', thereby greatly enhancing flexibility and performance.  Their patented 1-bit DAC (Digital Audio Converters) are some of the best and used in everything from their amazing 'Oxford Console' to many of their home high end products. 


"We are Neptune.  All media shall be assimilated >:)"

It makes good sense to use a high quality Sony laptop computer as a remote music server platform, so that is exactly what we do at Neptune.  Neptune Remotes are in fact Sony Z-1 laptops with added features, power and customizations to further enhance their performance.  They have a great clean and simple 'B&O Style' Nordic aesthetics and are the nicest looking and one of the best performing laptops available.

NOTE: Neptune Servers are similar to some of the products made by 'Rack Saver', who manufactures special effects machines for industry types such as Pixar (a computer animation subcontractor).  We do not recommend using a Sony Vaio as the hub of a Neptune system because they are not as powerful or flexible as Neptune Servers.  If you are looking for a lower priced alternative to a Neptune Server, we recommend getting a Neptune Remote (customized Sony Z1 laptop as pictured above) and eventually adding a Neptune Server if you require more speed, power, memory, etc.

3Brand & models

Citation (HK High End)

Quality & Size

3

Customization & Flexibility

3

Convenience

2

This brand, though not aggressively advertised or well known, offers one of the absolute best 'home theater' lines on Earth.  Made by Harman International (owners of Harman Kardon and countless other brands including Audax, JBL, Electro Voice and others), the 'Citation' line of components combines rich, natural sound with a great blend of performance and simplicity of operation.

The speakers of the Citation line are designed by John Dunlavy (inventor of the parabolic TV antenna and many great small speaker designs) and employ a 'D'Appolito' (Mid-Tweeter-Mid) arrangement (not our favorite due to comb filter effects, as in some Wilsons, but it works).  The amplifiers of the Citation line employ Mark Levinson derivative amplifiers.  Levinson stuff is a little harsh in the treble for our taste, but the extra smoothness of the (Vifa driver based) Dunlavy-designed speaker's helps even things out for a very natural end result.  In a word, the Citation sound is quite NATURAL and were one of many good comparison tools for us when designing the Neptune system :)  We LOVE Citation brand components!  Most notably the Neptune system is a lot more flexible and has superior imaging to the Citations.

NOTE: The sound quality of our servers and remotes is equivalent to Citation rack gear, but with much more flexibility and features.  Neptune speakers are discussed in the previous category listing and are superior to those of the Citation line, more comparable with good Wilson and Sonus Faber models (as noted above).

4Brand & models

Mark Levinson

Quality & Size

4

Customization & Flexibility

4

Convenience

3

Harman International, the company that owns Citation, also owns Mark Levinson, Cello, JBL, Electro Voice, and many other hi-fi brands including Audax (who's drivers are used in various Wilson Audio, Sonus Faber and Red Rose products).  Citation blends Mark Levinson amplifier and subcomponent technology with moderately sized John Dunlavy speaker designs that employ Vifa bass-midrange and tweeter drivers, whereas the sound of Levinson is basically a more 'forward' and 'shimmering' version of the Citation sound.  We like them both :)  If you are into style big time, the Levinson gear looks cooler.  It's also more expensive.

Mark Levinson products are aggressively marketed, well-advertised, well built, attractive looking and great sounding components.  'Cello' is a Levinson division that offers greater flexibility (EQ, etc.), and 'Red Rose' is the latest Levinson incarnation, merging high current amps, modified studio-rack digital equalizers and processors, Audax carbon fiber mids and Raven ribbon tweeters for a uniquely 'fast' sound.  We do love this sound and it deserves mention that at Neptune we very seriously considered going with ribbon and planar designs as Red Rose and Wilson Audio sometimes do for their speed and detail but in the end their larger profiles (and housings) cause 'beaming' as wavelengths are often smaller than the surfaces producing them, thereby reducing imaging holographics compared to stand-alone domes.  The challenge is to combine the best of each and leave the faults behind :-) 

NOTE: The membranes of ribbon tweeters used in Red Rose and other high quality designs tend to have a clear sound because they are generally lighter than the air load, but the end result can sound quite rough depending on the source material (especially with cymbals and distorted guitars) due to reflections and resonances in the driver/motor housings and baffles they are mounted to.  Ribbons must also be handled with care as they are physically fragile and can burn out easily compared with dynamic designs. 

Great speaker design is more complicated than it may seem, especially when evaluating elegantly simple designs.  Mounting an array of expensive drivers into fancy enclosures  and 'running the formulas' (as is the norm) can give good results, but designing from a holistic perspective where the goals are visual appeal combined with best performance to the human ear gives best results.  It is the power of good ideas that lead to great progress.  Much like 'U.F.O. / flying saucers' are thought of as advanced, yet simple at the same time, so too are Neptune designs 'elegantly complex'. 

 

 

We decided after auditioning our favorite domes and ribbons and various designs for a while to experiment a bit and see if we could further improve real-world results through a new approach other manufacturers haven't tried.  On a mission to identify and reduce flaws, we chose the absolute best technology and analyzed it.  The best tweeters in the world bar none are gas plasmas.  They use a sphere of superheated (or ionized) gas oscillated with electronics.  The downside is they cost a ton and are unreliable, dangerous, and inefficient - hence trying to produce low frequencies with them takes about a zillion watts (with current technology).  Free-standing plasmas operate as pulsating spheres with coherent phase in all directions - the ideal for producing holographic 'you-are-there' imaging.   We found that by mounting two dome tweeters back-to-back we could combine the durability, reduced cost and greater output capability of domes with much of the speed and low frequency extension of large ribbon/planar style tweeters and the imaging precision of gas plasmas...

Compared with typical dome tweeter systems Neptune's exclusive design has double the surface area and therefore double the speed and low frequency extension (like ribbons), combined with twice the output capability (like small horns), and attains near-spherical phase coherence (like top-mount gas plasmas).  The great 'floating image' of natural holographic sound they produce contrast with that from line, planar, or array style systems which often look impressive cosmetically but ironically tend to make image size smaller rather than larger due to comb filter artifacts and reduced room interaction.  Managing interaction is key - not eliminating it.  The Neptune system helps you master the environment and use it to enhance performance.

We add to this tweeter assembly the flexibility to independently blend the two tweeter levels (front and rear) for variable dispersion patterns and imaging styles, as well as allow independent damping factor control  for variable 'tube-tone' of the highs in relation to the bass-mid unit - much like the results attained through various 'bi-amping' options discussed in audio magazines.  Last, we added Wilson Audio Wamm style flexibility in the relative positioning and time-alignment of all drivers in the system as well as variable horizontal and vertical rotation of the tweeter (unlike any other production speaker) to give you control over the sound.  To summarize: Neptune's modular speaker and server approach gives you more flexibility and equivalent sound quality to other high end brands.  The sound is natural, panoramic, and you can adjust the performance.

High end entertainment systems are a form of art, and different people have different tastes in art.  Levinson makes some real tweaky over-the-top stuff like multi-thousand dollar volume controls, but we feel it is better to focus that sort of resource on perhaps - as we do - going a completely different route and using a cue-based server architecture so such critical synching and conversion features are no longer required.  As with most things there is usually more than one solution to a challenge and some will be better performers and better values than others.  It's not to say the old 'monster gear' philosophy is obsolete or inferior - just depends on what your goals are.  It is certainly not the most cost-efficient path to high performance results.  At Neptune we deliver equivalent performance through an entirely different architecture and save you a lot of space and expense in the process.

NOTE: We do LOVE esoteric high end audio gear from an aesthetics standpoint.  It's a bit different from what we do here, but it is certainly fun to see all the different angles and spin people put on established technologies - such as the fancy cabinet work and so fourth.  Please view our 'custom' page for some options if you want your Neptune system made more 'esoteric' a particular way.  As they say in marketing, "Half the product is the marketing", or as Frank Zappa used to say, "The most important thing in art is the 'frame'" :-)  We too think frames are important but....

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