Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar Home Theater System - Review

01
of 04

Introduction To The Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro

Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro - Official System Photo
Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro - Official System Photo. Image Provided by Nakamichi

Sound Bars are definitely an easy way to improve the TV viewing experience by bypassing those small, and inadequate TV speakers. Also, for those that don't want the hassle of a home theater system, they are seen as a viable compromise.

The ShockWafe Pro Twist

The ShockWafe Pro is a little different than most sound bar systems, as although it is common for a sound bar to be packaged with a subwoofer, the ShockWafe Pro is one of a small number of sound bars that also comes packaged with two surround sound speakers - making it a sort of hybrid sound bar/home theater system.

Another twist that Nakamichi has incorporated in this system is that in addition to the traditional left, center, right channel speaker configuration in the sound bar, there are two additional "Surround Effects Tweeters" (one facing out of each end of the sound bar).

This addition is designed to not only provide a wider front stage (front surround)but are angled so that they project further into the room and blend more seamlessly with the surround speakers that designed to be located near the back of the room.

Audio Decoding and Processing

The Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro includes Dolby Digital and DTS, decoding as well as 15 Virtual Surround Sound Listening Modes for additional surround sound listening options for both movies and music.

Connectivity

The sound bar provides 2 3D and 4K compatible HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI output which is Audio Return Channel (ARC) and CEC-enabled, as well as digital optical, digital coaxial, analog stereo (3.5mm type connectors), and a USB input (for accessing music files stored on flash drives).

In addition to physical connectivity, bi-directional Wireless Bluetooth is built-in for access of audio content from compatible portable devices, such as most smartphones and tablets, as well as direct wireless streaming from the sound bar to compatible Nakamichi-branded wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Physical Dimensions

The sound bar is 46-inches wide, making it a good physical match for 42 to 55-inch TVs.

The Surround Speakers and Subwoofer

The surround speakers that are provided are very compact (4.5-inches W x 7-inches H x 3-inches D) and can be placed on a shelf, stand, or mounted on a wall. However, unlike the subwoofer, the surround speakers are not wireless.

The wireless subwoofer of the ShockWafe Pro also includes the amplifiers for the surround speakers. This means that the surround speakers have to be physically connected to the subwoofer - they are not wireless. On one hand, you eliminate the need for speaker wire/cables running from the sound bar, across to the room, to the surround speakers, but you still end up running speaker wire from each surround speaker to the subwoofer. However, since the surround speakers and subwoofer are designed to be placed behind the listening position, the wires may be able to be placed out of sight.

Power output ratings for the amplifiers housed in the sound bar and subwoofer were not provided by Nakamichi, but the sound output levels produced were more than adequate the 15x20 test room used at normal listening levels.

02
of 04

The Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro - Getting It Set Up and Running

Nakamich ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Setup Illustration
Nakamich ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Setup Illustration. Image provided by Nakamichi

A lot of times when you buy a home theater product, you find that you need to go back to the store and get some cables and/or other accessories to make it work. However, Nakamichi, in addition to including the sound bar, surround speakers, subwoofer, and both Quick Start and Feature Guides, also provides an HDMI cable, Digital Optical and Analog Stereo (3.5mm) audio connection cables, and assorted Wall Screws and brackets for wall mounting the sound bar and surround speakers, should you choose that installation option.

ShockWafe Pro Set-up

Physically placing the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro is easy. The provided Quick Start and Feature Guides are well-illustrated and easy to read. Also, the inside lid of the accessories box has illustrations and labels for everything that is that provided so you don't have to spend extra time trying to figure out what is in all those little plastic bags.

Everything that you need to get going is in the box unless you need a Digital Coaxial audio cable or longer versions of the other cables provided. The Sound Bar unit comes with onboard pads for shelf mounting and wall mounting hardware for both the sound bar and satellite speakers are provided. In addition, audio cables are provided to connect the surround speakers conveniently to the wireless subwoofer.

Once you unbox everything, it is best to place the sound bar either above or below your TV. Then place the surround speakers on either side, slightly behind, and slightly above ear level, where your seating position is located.

As mentioned previously in this review, the surround speakers connect directly to the subwoofer via provided color-coded speaker wire (color coded for left or right surround channels). This means, instead of being placed in one of the front corners or along one of the side walls, the ShockWafe Pro subwoofer needs to be placed somewhere to the side or behind the main listening position, so the provided surround speaker cables can reach from the surround speakers to their required connections on the subwoofer.

The speaker cables provided for connecting the satellite speakers to the subwoofer are several feet long - but if you find they aren't long enough for your setup, you can use any speaker wire of needed length (with RCA connectors on each end) to complete the connection setup - If you are handy, you can even make them yourself.

After you have completed placing the sound bar, satellite speakers, and subwoofer, connect your desired sources (such as Blu-ray/DVD player) and your TV. Also, since the HDMI connections provide video pass-through, you can also connect external media streamers, such as the Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming sticks, although you may have to employ an additional short HDMI extender cable (Buy From Amazon) as the inset provided on the sound bar where the HDMI connections are is not large enough.

You have several options for connecting audio sources to the ShockWafe Pro and your TV:

Option 1: If you have an HDMI source device, you can connect it directly to the sound bar (up to two can be accommodated), and then connect the sound bar's HDMI output to your TV. If you have more than two HDMI sources, then you would need an external HDMI switcher.

With HDMI sources, the sound bar will pass the video signals through (no additional processing or upscaling is provided) to the TV, while the audio signals are decoded and/or processed by the sound bar. In addition, if your TV is Audio Return Channel-enabled, no additional audio connected need be made as audio originating from the TV can be passed back through the HDMI input of the TV back to the sound bar for decoding or processing.

Option 2: If you have source devices that are not HDMI-equipped, then connect the video outputs of those source devices to your TV directly, and then connect the audio outputs of those devices (digital optical/coaxial or analog stereo) to the ShockWafe Pro sound bar unit separately. This will allow the video to be displayed on the TV and the audio to be decoded or processed by the sound bar.

The last step is to turn on the subwoofer and sound bar and follow the instructions for synching the two together (in most cases this should be automatic - in my case, I just turned the subwoofer and sound bar on and everything worked).

To confirm that everything is working properly, use the built-in test tone generator. This feature sends out a tone to each speaker (and the subwoofer) in sequence. Then, using the remote, you can set your initial speaker levels so that your channels are balanced.

03
of 04

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro - System Performance

Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Remote Control
Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Remote Control. Image provided by Nakamichi

However, now that you have the ShockWafe Pro all set up and running, how does it perform?

Audio Performance - Sound Bar

The audio quality of the sound bar portion of the system is very good, and inclusion of the surround effects tweeters are a nice touch, as they definitely serve to widen the front sound stage, making the sound bar a good match for TVs that may have larger screen sizes - as well as filling the room with fuller sound.

Dolby and DTS decoding were performed, as advertised, and there are additional EQ settings provided specifically for Dolby and DTS sources, as well as additional EQ settings that allow listeners to tailor the sound profile further.

For example, if you are watching DVDs or Blu-ray Discs, you can use the Movie preset, for CDs, Bluetooth, etc..., you can use the Music preset, and there are other presets for Sports, Gaming, TV, and Night viewing. In addition, each preset multiple sub-presets - For example, the Music preset includes Rock, Pop, R&B, and Jazz while Movie preset includes Action, Sci-Fi, Animation, Comedy, and Drama. Also, the Night Mode is a very practical inclusion as it maintains the balance between bass, dialog, and higher frequencies at lower listening levels.

Although you do find similar sound listening presets on many home theater receivers, I thought for a sound bar system, the number of present options were a little overkill, as although you could hear the difference in the main presets, once you drill down into the sub-presets, the difference is slight, and which may make things more confusing for users.

This process might not be difficult when using a home theater receiver with onscreen menu navigation - but navigating these options just using a remote control with a very small LCD display might result in some frustration. Also, how many users would actually take advantage of all these extra options?

On the other hand, one aspect of the ShockWafe Pro that is innovative is the inclusion of tweeters on each end pointing outwards. Nakamichi refers to these as "surround effects tweeters" and actually do their job well in not only widening the front sound stage but projecting sound well into the room.

Also, the built-in Bluetooth feature is pretty straight forward. Using a HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone, I was able to take advantage of the ShockWafe Pro's Bluetooth capability and stream music tracks to the system with acceptable sound quality - However, since Nakamichi didn't send me a pair of Bluetooth headphones, so I did not have the opportunity test the ability of the sound bar to stream audio for that purpose.

Audio Performance - Surround Speakers

The additionally provided surround sound speakers performed well. The surround speakers projected directional sound or ambiance cues well into the room, providing a surround sound listening experience that can't be achieved by the soundbar alone. Also, the blend of sound from front to rear was very good, made better by the presence of the front sound effects tweeters incorporated into the sound bar. There were no obvious sound dips was sound moved from front to back or around the room.

When first listening to both music and movie material with surround processing on, I did find that the default surround balance setting emphasized the surrounds more that might be necessary, in relation to the front channels, but that is user adjustable. In other words, you can set the system to emphasize or de-emphasize the amount of the surround effect as desired. For me, I thought that the default surround settings were too high.

On the other hand, one observable "weakness" of the ShockWafe Pro is that when I performed an around-the-room channel test, as well as listening to real world surround content, I noticed that the sound-field was not as bright in the high-frequency region as I would have preferred, especially when engaging the movie presets.

Audio Performance - Powered Subwoofer

The subwoofer can put out a lot bass, but you need to care about setting the volume balance between it and the rest of the speakers, as it can be overwhelming at times. Using the Digital Video Essentials Test Disc (Blu-ray edition), a faint bass signal beginning at 30Hz was able to be heard, with a usable bass output beginning at about 40Hz. There is a slight dip in the 50 to 60Hz range, but when approaching the 70Hz range there is a jump in output that continues to about 80Hz. I also noticed than when using the movie modes, there was sometimes a slight lower mid-range leakage that could be heard from the subwoofer.

Overall, although the subwoofer sound output was impressive, using the remote, the low-frequency output was sometimes tricky to control and balance with the rest of the system.

04
of 04

The Bottom Line

Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Lifestyle Image
Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro 7.1 Lifestyle Image. Image provided by Nakamichi

After using the Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro for an extended period, here is the bottom line.

Pros

  • Easy to set up - well illustrated Quick Start and Feature Guides.
  • Can be shelf, table, or wall mounted. Wall mounting hardware provided.
  • The surround effects tweeters were a nice touch in terms of providing wider front soundstage and more effective blending with the surround speakers.
  • The wireless subwoofer eliminates the requirement for a long and unsightly cable needed to connect the subwoofer to the sound bar.
  • The system provides access to audio content stored on Bluetooth-enabled portable sources devices, as well as a USB port for accessing compatible music files stored on flash drives.
  • Built-in Test Tone Generator.
  • Plenty of power for small (12x13 ft) and medium (15x20 ft) rooms.

Cons

  • The large number preset listening modes may confuse some users.
  • The surround speakers are not wireless - require connection to the subwoofer.
  • The subwoofer provides good low-frequency bass response but can be overwhelming, or tricky to balance, depending on the listening mode.
  • The LCD display on the remote is a nice touch but is too small and difficult to see, and since there are so many settings available, some users may get confused.
  • The Volume control function adjusts in steps, rather than being continuous.
  • When changing speaker level settings for one listening mode preset, the change affects all of the presets. For example, if you want to set the center channel level for movie listening higher than for music listening when going to music listening mode, you will have to change it back.

Final Thoughts

The settings that provided the best balance between the individual channels that worked best for this review were 8 for the Center Channel, 5 for the surrounds, and 3 for the Subwoofer - The master volume control was then used to adjust the total system volume. Your preferences may vary.

The sound bar, surround speakers, and subwoofer all provided decent sound quality - but the remote control may be confusing for some users. I found that although the physical layout of the remote was fine, once you started accessing to the menu options and sound presets, it is easy to get lost. With all of the possible settings available, an onscreen control interface would make it a lot easier.

Although there are lots of EQ presets, there is no way to do manual EQ (bass, treble) settings. For example, the Movie preset subdues the center channel and high frequencies somewhat and boosts the subwoofer. If the source is Dolby or DTS-encoded - stick with the Dolby and DTS presets and forgo the additional supplementary EQ presets.

Having strong subwoofer output for movies is great, but not having a strong center channel isn't. If you don't want to change your speaker levels manually, going over to the "Music" listening preset actually provides the best overall listening option as it brings out the high frequencies and the center channel, without sacrificing the subwoofer.

However, based on its total performance and feature package, I give the Nakamichi ShockWafe Pro a 4 out of 5 Star ranking.

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