Nova Utopia Be $38K - Are they good?


These speakers look nice - are they good speakers? At this price point I would think so. What type of gears should be using with them? With the listed price of $38,000/pair and If you have an opportunity to buy them for around $15k to $20k per pair new/near new would you jump on it an why?
sd2005gt
I have an old mid-fi system but have listened to many speakers in the last ten years. I have been tempted to cash my EE bonds only once - for the Novas. They were in a $50,000 electronics set-up so I don't know if they would sound that fabulous with lower priced electronics but I was floored with the sound.

I would buy immediately if I could hear speakers with close to that quality in the $10,000 range but I know from years of experience in life that you usually get what you pay for.
I have a pair of the Nova Utopia Bes and they are the finest speakers I have ever had and very hard to beat in terms of the sonics/size/looks equation. If you could pick them up for the price mentioned, I would jump on them, though I doubt you'll find them for less than 18K used. They are the only speakers I ever auditioned that honestly blew me away, at the time with all of the reference Burmester gear. I am using the Dartzeel amp with them along with FIM/CRL Gold cables, a wonderful combination. I also have the new Tact Boz amps which are also quite lovely in this combo. There are perhaps better speakers in one way or another - Wilson Maxx II, Von Schweikert VR9s, Dali Megalines, etc. but in my opinion, all of the speakers that up the ante from the Nova Utopias involve significant tradeoffs in price, size or looks. This is an all around fabulous speaker - as it should be for the price, but one that satisfies on virtually every level. Happy listening!
heard them at the nyc 2005 show with balanced audio and shunyata electronics, they were breathtaking, very lively with incredible bass.
I recently acquired the Novas which replaced B&W N800’s. Prior to my decision to buy these, I evaluated Wilson’s Grand Slamm (Series 2) in my room. Front-end is all Levinson. Overall, the Novas are stunning and in my system, the speakers disappear on most CDs.

Comparing to N800:
- Bass is much faster and lower (no need to get a sub)
- Midrange is significantly more accurate and makes the N800 sound ‘constipated’
- Top-end is cleaner
N800 tends to draw attention to itself as in ‘listen to me’ whilst the Novas draws your attention to the music.

The Grand Slamms was a very interesting experience although my room size wasn’t ideal. I found both to have much in common and the overall sound was similar which perhaps makes for some form of convergence for high-end speakers. Where the Grand Slamms offered better performance was in dynamics whilst the Novas delivered better driver integration and soundstage height (which I suppose is a result of my room as I always felt I wanted much greater listening distance).

Hope this helps.
For the most part,I sort of,agree with the above comments,but with a few caveats.Firstly let me say that for the money,you mention,they are Well worth it.

Now my two cents worth,AND I would love any feedback regarding my comments,as I've been enthralled with these speakers,in the first and second version,for quite some time.

I auditioned the orig Utopia some time ago,and fell in love with them.Suffice to say I've heard them with top flight stuff,and they sounded everywhere from simply EHH,to fabulous.I AB'd them against the Avalon Eidolon's some time ago,and they simply blew the Eidolon's away.I own Avalon Ascents(which I love),but when I went to hear the Eidolon,and subsequently heard the Utopia,in the same room,that was it.I was hooked!!And BAD!!

Always pondering my potential future upgrades(which sometimes take quite a bit of time,but allow me to be well versed,in what I'm trying to accomplish)I set out to hear these speakers,in a variety of set-ups.I LOVE the fact that these speakers are kind of a "Drop in" for the amp I'm using(a ROWLAND)and are easy to drive,as well as requiring only one quality set of cables(as a sidebar,I am enthralled with the Dali megalines,but they need two identical stereo amps).

I heard Jonathan Scull's set-up,once.At his home,just before he left the Mag,he wrote for.A friend got me the invitation.Scull was a really fine guy,and wanted to please us.He had SOTA stuff,and a huge listening space.He,also,previously owned,and still loves, my current Avalons,so I wanted to see what the deal was.I was NOT disappointed.He ran a 100 wpc tube amp for the occassion,which was very powerful,but had a midbass hump.This was to be expected,and the sound was actually quite good.Vey open,dynamic,with stunning timbres.Imaging not in the league of my Ascents,but few speakers are,and that is only one parameter.

I heard these speakers(Utopias) on two occassions,running YBA stereo 200 wpc amps,with a tube line/phono,and HERE it WAS MAGIC.One location was a dealer who pushes(big time)Kharma stuff.The Kharma's sounded fine,but,especially for the money,actually even not taking price into account,the Utopias FLOORED me.Smoked any Kharma I've ever heard,and I like Kharmas,though they are laughably overpriced.In ALL areas,Timbres(which many audiophiles are clueless about)were stunning,and there was a huge sense of dynamic scale,with NO mid bass bloat.I was HOOKED.My beloved pondering took on a whole new meaning,for my future listening considerations,and my tennis game began to suck.Who cared!!I was in the Audio sweetspot,as opposed to hitting my serve,in the sweetspot!

Enter the Nova Utopia Berrylium.I have heard these two times.Both under show conditions,but with quality gear.To me,there has been a shift in timbral presentation,for the worse.However,not wanting to give up on such a STUNNING product,I would give the benefit of the doubt to the fact that the speakers were probably, NOT broken in, store speakers,and were uncrated"new" for the show.I assume(hope)this was the case,as I still love these speakers,and it seems that JM Labs is keeping the price somewhat reasonable,what with the dollar's drag.I hope they still list at 37.5.

Now the surprise,to ME!--At HE 2005,the Nova's were set up down the hall from the TAD Model one speakers.I heard the Tad's in 4 and 2 channel.I kept going back to compare BOTH demos.My comments are in the 2 channel mode,which is what I prefer.NO CONTEST!!Did I say NOT CLOSE!!The Tad's list for 7 grand more,but to me(and I hope the "break in" issue was a factor,here)the TAD's SMOKED the Nova's,in virtually all areas.Anthony Cordesman reviewed these some months ago,where he stated that these speakers were the greatest audio product he has ever experienced.I must say,in terms of transparency,accurate dynamics,image accuracy,point source realism,overall presentation,and a real sense of NO mechanical iterations of any kind,the TAD's were IT,and did I say IN SPADES!!Amazing!!!

Now my dilemma---I still love the Nova's.They would be such an easy load for my amp,where I think the Tad may require me to consider another unit(I don't want to,unless forced).Also,they are still a few thousand dollars cheaper,and I find it hard to believe that Focal would market a newer version of the Utopia,which I know of one person who traded in a Genisis 1.1 for.He wanted more space,and felt the Utopia was close enough.Not the Grand Utopia.So,for me,the jury is still out.For YOU,at 18-20 k for a pair,the verdict is in.IN SPADES!!Viva L'difference!!

Best of luck!!
Sirspeedy, by way of background, regarding your experience with the timbral balance issue with the new Utopias. I initially heard the Utopias with all top of the line BAT gear and I walked out of the room, happy that I didn't have the Utopias. There was a discontinuity between the berrylium tweeter and the other drivers which was very disconcerting. I heard the speakers again 4 months later with Burmester gear and the room was magical. I doubt the BAT was the issue in retrospect as I have heard the BAT gear to very good effect with the Utopias. Conclusion: the speakers were more than likely not burned in.
By the way, as an aside and in further response to Sirspeedy, and I apologize in advance for being off topic, I spoke with someone at TAD today, who indicated that the Model one are no longer being produced despite what was an order backlog. They will introduce a new speaker in the same price range, though they would not say it was a replacement, at CES 2006. Hmmm?
Slaufer,WOW!!Thanks for the info.
Slaufer, I would suggest that you arrange for these speakers to be auditioned in your home (even at modest cost it would be well worth it). Once your system is fully warmed up, sit yourself down with a decent wooded chardonay and enjoy...

Sirspeedy, one way of knowing whether the Novas were fully runned-in was if you heard an unusaul amount of sibilance. Those Be tweeters needs at least 250 hours of break-in and thereafter sibilance almost vanishes.
Any comment on the Alto or Diva Utopias? Thanks in advance.
Heard the Alto's,and they WERE a real pleasure to audition.

They played really loud,with outstanding dynamics,and timbres.Also,they filled up a large room very satisfyingly.A very well priced product,compared to some competition.
Thanks for the info sirspeedy; I have seen very little anywhere on the Altos (or the Divas) & I was worried that the lack of discourse on these were a negative sign.
I did hear the Novas at the NY show & thought the bass pounded too much, & I was hoping the smaller ones were more controlled. (It's just my personal preference, but I hate loose or chest-thumping bass, especially when it extends to the upper bass or lower midrange.)
I also assume that the good timbres mean that the vocals were natural without any buzziness or tizz. Thanks again.
I HEARD THE NOVA UTOPIAS WITH BOULDER MONO BLOCKS AND SIMAUDIO MOON UNIVERSAL PLAYER, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE PRE AMP WAS. I ALSO HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR THEM BOTH ON AND OFF A GRAND PRIX RACK AND THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE. I DO NOT KNOW HOW BUT THERE WAS, EVEN MORE SO THAN THE CHANGES IN SPEAKER CABLES THAT WE DID FROM SOME IN THE $60 RANGE TO SOME IN THE $1600 RANGE. i WAS TOLD IT WAS ABOUT THE VIBRATION, BUT i DON'T KNOW THAT OT BE A FACT. I THOUGHT THEY WERE SOMETHING SPECIAL. I WAS A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED IN THE BASE, BUT I CAME AWAY FEELING THAT THEY WERE LIKE THE GUY WHO KNEW HE WAS SO TUFF HE DID NOT FEEL THE NEED TO PROVE IT. I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET A PAIR OF DIVAS AT A GREAT PRICE AND THINK THEY ARE A DROP DEAD LOOKING SPEAKER, BUT I HAVE NOT TALKED WITH ANYONE WHO HAS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO LISTEN TO A PERIOD OF TIME LONG ENOUGH TO DRAW A CONCLUSION.
IMO--These speakers NEED extreme care in room placement to mesh bass with mids/highs.Also,as per the excellent Stereophile review,they really need solid state amps to control the woof.At the HE-2005 show they were set-up w/tube amps,so bass was affected.Also,the room was not too good.I have these on a short list of future speakers(2-3 yrs),Dali Megalines,Tad-1(or new one to come soon),and maybe one or two others.Hope it gets it's act together,to the more discriminating listener.Best regards!
I heard the Grande Utopia Be's at the montreal 2005 show running off a YBA passion 1000 stereo amp. Source was the esoteric UX-1 player with the YBA passion 1000 preamp (with the large external powersupply). I'm not sure what interconnects and speaker cables were used, but powercords and powerconditioning was by YBA.

The sound was good, even very good. The soundstage was impecable, vocals were rendered with great control and at the same time with ease, transparency was first class, bass was visceral yet very well rendered. Classical music impressed on it. No constriction whatseoever. The room was huge. I walked away from that room regreting the fact that I did not bring more cd's to the show.

but...

there was definitely present, in the highs, a particular metalic glare present in many metal tweeters (even in high end speakers) ... and it has nothing to do with sibilance, sibilance was not an issue in montreal ... despite the advantages of this sound in brass instrument rendering, I have to say that to my ear it is not the most pleasant and my own choice of speakers has revolved around the better silk tweeters out there. I think it's a matter of personal preference, no right or wrong here ... or anywhere else in this hobby.

At the Monsteal 2005 show, I found the Ayre/Sonus Faber room to be absolutely magical ... a world away from the YBA/JM Lab room. There was emotion there, music felt surreal there ... total involvement, no walls (room size similar to the YBA room) ... therefore I would like to caution people considering the Nova Be's to also keep an open ear for Sonus Faber Amati's/Stradivary's ; Dynaudio Evidence Temptation's as well as Acapella Violon's as an ion tweeter alternative. They are all world-class speakers worthy of an audition. The Dali Megalines, MBL 101E's are other fascinating alternatives.
Amperidian,I must say that you make a very compelling argument regarding the new Utopia tweets.I have to admit to liking these speakers,yet DO feel the new tweets are much more obvious than some other less heavily marketed types.I have heard the new Novas and have been left with the feeling that they are bettered by a good deal of the competition,yet the Altos were fabulous.Go figure!Same tweeter,different presentation.I would love to hear the STRADS,as they seem to reflect a type of sound I'm slowly morphing into liking,more and more.In all truthfullness,and solely in my opinion(not to be taken too seriously)the little Kharma 3.2's driven with a smallish SET amp have a "presentation",as opposed to speaker "sound",that I find beguiling.Pretty decent bass too,yet it is the presentation projected from so simple a design,that really connects with me.This is destroyed,IMO,with ANY subwoofer addition,but it's only my take,here.

I liked the older Utopias a bit more,and truthfully love the timbral textures of my current modded Avalon Ascents,which is why I'm SO reluctant to make any speaker changes.A change in most speakers,in one's system,usually means the total revoicing of the room/system,and I'm growing weary of the non stop upgrade mentality,in the hobby.Maybe I'm just happy,yet,we are not supposed to be really all that satisfied.Are we?

One design,that seems really interesting,and is very accessible from a wide variety of amps,that can be used with it,is the Venture Audio line of speakers.Seemingly easy load on an amp,stunning cabinetry,and SOTA design(apparently),yet NOT cheap.Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Best regards.
I am constantly struck by how remarkably personal this hobby and individual listening preferences can be. No doubt, our unique impressions and listening styles drive this hobby. At the same time, many impressions voiced here are merely that, "impressions" based upoon limited listening in less than enviable locations. I note above that when I first heard the Novas they were unpleasant. In fact the tweeter was very noticeable, etched, metallic, "in your face." This was in my experience an issue with burn in. I have lived with the Nova Utopias for over 1 1/2 years using, initially using Halcro amplification and now a Dartzeel amp, and after the intial few weeks of living with them, there was no trace of any tweeter or driver for that matter, just music. The midrange and tweeter of the Nova Utopias are their strong suit and in my experience not bettered by any other speaker I have heard. They are to my ear, utterly natural sounding and have all the air and vibrancy of sounds you hear in nature. I would venture to say that if you have heard a metallic sound in listening to the Novas that they were either not fully burned in or the amplification or supporting gear was the cause.

Happy listening!
I can understand Slaufer's argument, and have to agree that component matching is key to getting the most out of such a speaker. If you're happy then it's all that matters. The Dart gear is considered by many to be the best out there right now and perhaps one day I will be fortunate enough to have it in my system. As regards the tweeter sound I heard in Montreal, it may have been a break-in issue ... but I also heard a similar rendering coming out of a pair of Revel Salons that were well broken in ... maybe just not my personal taste ... just my personal opinion.
Well I heard the Nova Utopia BE two times next to the Wilson Puppy 7. As for bass performance the Novas sounded like you would expect, big and powerful speaker.

In the beginning I was blewn away by the Novas. I thought they were a lot better than the puppy. However after extensive listening it was clearly noticeable that the Novas colored more and that the Novas were not as dynamic as the Puppy. Also the Novas needed a really big room otherwise they sounded boomy.

So in the end I got irritated by the color of the Novas and found out that I prefer the Wilson WP7 more. Both the shop owner as my girlfriend agreed also on this part.

So I guess it is a matter of system matching, size of the room and personal taste. In Europe the WP7 and the Nova sell around the same price new (26000 euro). So no price difference. It just is a matter of personal taste. Both are very good.

Peter
That is funny because when I heard the WP7, I thought they were dull and lifeless. I guess one man's "dull" is another man's "uncolored!" Makes you wonder why we even have these discussions in the first place.
It's really funny,as to room/component architecture affecting our "opinions" as to what is good.
I SO want to like the Watt/Puppy,but have never heard them to my satisfaction.I've really tried!I must have resolution,coupled with a real involvement in the recorded content(the little jewel-like Kharma 3.2 shines here,but does not blow down walls,and who cares,except the Wilson/MTV crowd),and few speakers do this.BTW,I own neither.
At the VTV Show I heard the "tiny" Rogers LS35a,driven by a measley 10 wpc Dyna tube amp.Driven by the AMAZING Stelavox rel to reel.Really Spartan stuff,yet it was SO compelling(though not nearly "wall popping" as a Wilson,and there is certainly a contingent liking that sound,which is fine with me BTW)that I truly had to re-think how I wanted to "experience" a system in my own room.
Yes,everyone has their own taste,but one cannot really compare a BIG speaker,like the Nova,to the Watt/Puppy as the Nova surely needs a larger room to do it's thing.It's bass enclosure is far larger than the Wilson,and this matters.
The "it factor"(to me)concernes alot more than loudness/dynamic capabilities of any given loudspeaker.But tell that to the guy next to me,at the traffic light,who is BLASTING his latest mega car stereo/boom box.I have NO doubts what speakers he would prefer,at home!

Best!