Nova Bravo Loudspeakers
Clement Perry
11 May 2001

Nova Bravo SpeakersSpecifications

Enclosure type: 2-way vented design
Tweeter: One 1" soft dome tweeter w/Dual rear-channel pressure release
Woofer: One 7" Carbon-Fiber composite woofer
Frequency: 33Hz to 20kHz (+/- 3dB)
Sensitivity: 87 dB (1 watt @ 1 meter)
Impedance: 8-ohm nominal (6 ohms minimum)
Rated power requirement: 30 watts
Equipped with two pairs of 5-way binding posts.
Price $3,500 USD (depending on finish)

Nova Audio, Inc.
P.O. Box 40569
Houston, Texas 77240, U.S.A.
Tel: 713-466-1880
Fax: 713-856-0278
Web: www.novaaudio.com

Nova Audio, based in Houston, Texas, is a relative newcomer to the USA, opening its American doors in 1995. Stateside, Nova has made significant strides in speaker design, build quality and price/performance. The Bravo loudspeaker, the company’s second most affordable, is an excellent example of the above.

Nova Audio produces five models at a variety of prices, sizes and performance capability, from their 6-foot-tall, 600-pound Evolution IIs to their $2,200 Ovations. Nova unveiled their latest, the actively powered Applause S, at the 2001 CES. In essence, Nova Audio sets out to cover all bases by designing products at budget extremes, without, they say, huge performance disparities.

I’ve admired Nova’s loudspeakers, particularly the Evolutions, which I heard in Chicago at the ’99 Stereophile Show. It was there I first found that some serious designers stand behind the company’s stated goals. Nonetheless, Nova hasn’t made its mark on the audio scene in the way that some of the more popular names have. But never mind all that: I trust my ears, which is why I requested the floor-standing mini-monitor Bravos for review.

The Bravo, conceived as a compact two-way system, is tall and lean, with a small footprint: 42" tall x 9-¾" deep x 9-½" wide. The Bravo uses a 7" midbass Scanspeak carbon-fiber driver descended from those in their 600-pound gorillas. As for the woofers, the company’s website tell us this: "Stiff but low in mass, this assures fast dynamic tracking of even the most demanding musical waveforms." The one-inch, soft-dome tweeter, also derived from the Evolution series and completing this two-way design, boasts a long excursion and wide bandwidth. "…High frequencies are extremely detailed, smooth, and free from grain due to the advanced wide bandwidth. Its massive aluminum front plate is individually machined for controlled directivity and excellent dispersion." Heck, if nothing else, they’ve got a great marketing guy!

With its 8-ohm impedance rating and 87dB efficiency, the Bravo should be an easy load. The manufacturer recommends at least 30 watts of power, and yet I’ve had rewarding listening sessions with the Bravos strapped to the amazingly musical, 13-watt (!), single-ended Zanden. At modest listening levels, this combo conveys musical ecstasy. (Review forthcoming.)

With its fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley crossover and frequency rating of 33Hz to 20kHz, the Bravo is capable of a hefty bass despite its modest footprint. The speaker features a vented port (a slit along the backside’s base) that really helps the low end, which, as I hear it, is one of the speaker’s stellar characteristics. Throw in a pair of gold plated, five-way binding posts and a real-wood veneer exterior – mine is light oak – and you’ve got a well thought-out product.

Putting the Bravo through its paces was a treat, thanks to a ton of first-rate components with which to grade them by way of my downstairs home theater rig and upstairs reference system. Downstairs, we’ve the new and remarkable Sampo SME-34WHD5 16:9 HDTV monitor and the BMB Custom line of luxury home theater loudspeakers. The all new JubiLaeum CD2 CD player, in from Singapore, has me intrigued by its standard 16/44 performance, with no 24/96 or 24/192 hype. It’s a killer. Add to these Onkyo’s SX-676 Dolby Digital receiver, and the nicely designed JVC DX-723 Progressive Scan DVD Player.

The upstairs setup is the usual: my Sony SCD-1 SACD Player spinning the discs, this time as transport coupled with the Perpetual Technology (Modwright version) P3A/P1A combo. The Tact 2.2 manages room anomalies, with the Bel Canto EVo 2002 mono amps doing their incredible disappearing act. The all-tube Audio Valve Eklipse amplifiers by way of audio guru Victor Goldstein are warming very nicely. All cabling was by way of Robert Lee’s Acoustic Zen Silver Reference and the exquisite Wasatch line. Sistrum’s stands and equipment platforms complimented all electronics but were not used under the Bravos during this review process.

So what’s there to say about a two-way monitor coupled to the floor? Plenty! No matter what I threw their way, the Bravos, unfazed, belied their mini-monitor stature.

For movie playback, with the Onkyo SX-676 receiver and JVC DX-723 DVD, the Bravos seemed unfazed by all the heavy dialogue, noise and hoopla. In The Hurricane, for example, in the opening scene, the ferocious Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, an inmate who in the prime of his boxing career finds himself wrongfully convicted of murder and is sentenced to life in prison, prepares for a rumble with a horde of angry prison guards. The guards, knowing who Rubin Carter is, don riot gear. Simultaneously, one of his most famous pro bouts flashes across the screen. The Bravos handled gobs of dynamic impact with cool composure. I can certainly live with these speakers as a home theater setup’s principal pair.

Upstairs in the Talons’ lair, the Bravos further impressed. In my reference setup, where they were out-distanced in terms of pricing, the little fellows were unintimidated by my Talon Khoruses. I won’t say they performed like the Khoruses, but they certainly missed little in terms of musicality. A perfect example is the re-release of drummer Art Blakey’s Paris Jam Session, CD (Verve 442832692-2), recorded live on December 18, 1959, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. The disc features the Jazz Messengers’ Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Jymie Merritt, and a guest appearance by Bud Powell. This is an incredible piece of work, one of those smokers that makes me wish I’d been there. Judging from the applause after each solo, you could just tell that the audience was on a magical journey. Especially grand is Lee Morgan’s blistering, eleven-minute-long "The Midget." The Bravos certainly never got in the way of Lee’s high-octane solos. His trumpet shone through with a burnished glow over an ever so slightly accented high middle C, typical of Lee Morgan style, letting me in on how nicely the Bravos’ soft dome tweeter performs. The Bravos reproduced this effect unlike any loudspeaker I’ve heard in this price range. I am really looking forward to auditioning their larger, more expensive models.

Wayne Shorter follows, on tenor saxophone, infused with hot intensity, incessant swing, and loads of bounce. As a showdown of sorts, he somehow takes the performance up a couple of clicks with ceaseless, soulful riffs that demonstrate what a great midrange this speaker possesses. All this wonderful synergy is further sustained by bassist Jymie Merritt, with his incredible phrasing, timing, and rhythm. The way he uses the fret to hold, pluck and bend notes on the grandiloquent "A Night in Tunisia" is a wonder. Jymie let’s it all hang out, and so do the Bravos. They present with an uncanny ability the articulation, tonal balance, weight and body of Powell’s piano and Shorter’s tenor. The Bravos did not as much as flinch. For a $3,500 mini-monitor to perform in this manner without having commanded the audio press’s attention – well, it’s disheartening.

Driven by the Bel Canto EVo monos and playing just loud enough to fill my 17- by 21-foot listening room, the Bravos simply opened up, sounding both taller and more seamless, with a better-balanced, deeper soundstage. The Bravo allowed the music to pass through uncompromised. One would have expected the speaker to fall short at some point in the spectrum. They did not when I played them at moderate levels.

Conclusion

For its price, Bravo performed as it has no business doing. I am here to say that, even as an open-minded review, I was surprised. No matter what I played, whether flamboyant classical works, big-band jazz, or audiophile torture tracks, such as Bozzio Levin Stevens’ "Duende," from the Black Light Syndrome CD (Magna Carta MA90192), the Bravos exhibited a sense of composure to gladden the heart of the budget-minded audiophile. This is a gem of a contender in a tough terrain.

Highly recommended.