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Vapor Audio Nimbus White Speaker Review

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Vapor Audio Nimbus White Speaker

It’s just a puff of smoke, a wisp, a few particles, so what can it do? Nothing, right? Wrong, it can take your house down and overturn your life – that’s what an atmospheric disturbance can do when it reaches the nth degree. It starts out innocently enough but writhes into a twister, a whirlwind of chaos, particles potently arranged and propelled with deadly force.

Words are also wind, exhaling, vocalizing – like a speaker, but with biological impetus. In this article I will (virtually) evacuate the vapor in my lungs to convey how good the Vapor Audio Nimbus White speaker is with the hope that at a minimum you hear it and at best have a chance to own it, as I do.

Yes, I own this speaker, so prepare yourself with whatever high-level skepticism, broad based denunciations and hypercritical analysis of my writing you feel merited. Weight my comments accordingly; I’m not worried, for this is no ordinary speaker, and Ryan Scott’s Vapor Audio is no ordinary speaker company. I am quite confident that subsequent shows and customer testimonials will bear out that I have not overstated the merits of the Nimbus White.

FRENZY

This November two days before Ryan visited, tornadoes ripped apart central Illinois. Based just south of St. Louis, Vapor Audio was just out of harm’s way. No one knows the dangers of the wind better than Ryan who is a degreed Atmospheric Scientist and trained at the National Weather Service to be a weather forecaster, consequently finding inspiration for his speakers’ names in the weather conditions he studied so passionately. As with an atmospheric condition, use of the Nimbus White is not so much the experience of an object in operation as it is being immersed into the conditions under which fine audio reproduction occurs. For example one does not think of a snowstorm as an object, but an event. Similarly, the Nimbus White speakers are so thorough in what they do that one senses not the speaker playing but rather a musical event happening.

That is a strong statement that requires backing. Many speakers claim to put one in the hall, to recreate the real thing, to evoke the passion. Getting beyond the Ad hype, how well they actually do so is another matter. One way to assess a speaker’s potential is to assess its build quality and design. For Ryan if the speaker’s parts are not of high quality, the speaker cannot be of high quality. This sounds self-evident, however there are a surprising number of manufacturers as well as audiophiles who believe that this principle can be skirted, that one can get top sound with average parts.

The longer I am in the audio game the more I believe two things; parts matter, but the designer matters more. Note carefully I am not saying that if the designer is really good the parts don’t matter! The ideal is to have both great parts and a superb designer. The default assumption is that means a storied or highly credentialed designer with at least one degree relative to the field of electronics. What if I were to tell you it is not absolutely essential? What matters more is a manufacturer with vision, with an eye toward obtaining a sound quality better than everyone else. So what, everyone is trying that! But some are clearly better than others, and they don’t have to be credentialed. You guessed it, Ryan Scott is not credentialed in the field of electronics, however, he has had highly technical training which influences his designs, does have a particular eclectic genius and an indomitable will to excel in order to be the best. That combination pushes him to achieve extreme results such as are displayed in the Vapor Audio speaker line. Consider, how many manufacturers, credentialed or not, have ever attained anything on the order of the Nimbus White? As this article continues you will understand why I ask that question.

RISK TAKING AND RADICAL SPEAKER DESIGN

Ryan has done a fair number of things that involve risks most are not willing to take. He started and sold automotive websites, was a Pro Motorsports photographer, published his own print magazine, day traded stocks, and is a self-taught gunsmith (imagine being on the hook legally for the safety of the custom firearms you make!). This is not an exhaustive list but shows the varied and extreme lengths he has gone in pursuit of enjoyment in his work and exploration toward producing notable results. He has even done some reviewing of audio gear! The man adapts! He is not satisfied with good enough but wishes to create something unique. He seems to relish enjoyment of his accomplishments more than closing a sale at a higher price. He is as much a visionary as businessman, a characteristic that will need to be kept in mind later in this article.

Ryan Scott, at least at this point in time for who knows what the future holds, appears to be most concerned about having people own his genius when it comes to speakers. How do I know this? I simply look and listen to the Nimbus White! It is a $20K plus speaker if there are any $20K plus speakers in the world. He could sell this speaker all day for $20K, and I’m quite sure sooner rather than later he will. But for now, for a short period of time it is available at a fight-in-the-aisles- Black-Friday-Sale price of a smidgen under $10K.

THE CONDITIONS

I had been speaking of atmospheric conditions. Well, there are (ahem) “conditions” which pertain to purchase of an exotic, low production speaker put out by a visionary running a small company. Chief among those conditions is that it can be challenging to find someone to talk to you when you attempt to contact them. Sound familiar? The lament follows this form, “… does not answer the phone,” or “I don’t get a response when I send an email,” or “…I tried contacting them days ago and have heard nothing,” culminating in “Are they still in business?”

I can relate, and will not withhold straightforward criticism in the hopes that Vapor Audio will relent and beef up its customer service because I am a reviewer and owner and I am not getting the level of responsiveness I want either. To be fair, it is not technically that I can’t get any response – it’s that I can’t consistently get timely response. Ryan seems to march to his own chronological drummer, catches up with correspondence on the fly, and is subject to long lapses in response times. We live in an age of, “As a customer I deserve to have you get back to me now,” communication and we expect it all the more for premium products. My experience is you will need to practice your extreme waiting skills when making arrangements with Vapor Audio.

19 Responses to Vapor Audio Nimbus White Speaker Review


  1. Ed Rosenquist says:

    Thanks for the heartfelt words, Doug! Nimbus is like more like a sculpture for me to build; it is NOT a box. When others enjoy what I build, that makes the time spent worthwhile. Thanks again!

  2. alan trahern says:

    I, like many of your other readers, I’m sure, have followed the travails of the many who have posted on the various fora regarding what can only be described as the minefield of the order/delivery process for these speakers.

    You state in your review that you purchased a demo pair so that certainly implies that they were already built when you spoke up for them and even then, there were delays and periods of silence in finally taking possession.

    So the clock is now ticking as regards your most recent order. In fairness to all, I hope you will be as forthcoming with updates and status reports for these as you were in this review.

    I, for one, have never laid eyes or ears on the Vapor line but it seems a bloody shame that so many “shenanigans” seem to be part and parcel with the procurement process.

    I sincerely hope they are worth the trouble.

  3. Alan,
    God’s Blessings to you,

    I can neither absolutely verify, nor falsify claims made online. I considered the forum complaints – no, I do not have time to read every last one, nor the inclination – when I contemplated writing the article. It was the reason I specifically discussed the structure and methods of the company. It should be obvious to all by now that 1. Vapor doesn’t operate like a regular speaker company, and 2. it doesn’t build a speaker at a valuation point like a regular speaker company.

    Perhaps if I share a bit more about the current project people can understand Ryan and Vapor Audio better. Here’s an update: I was initially looking to have the Joule White in Brazilian Rosewood, as per Ryan’s recommendation. About four weeks into the process Ryan said he would like to change it to Saeple. This was shocking to me initially, as I had my heart/mind set on the Rosewood. I imagined it in the room, prepared for it. Now, in a moment he was suggesting something quite different.
    So, was that a problem? Did it mean he was running roughshod over my wishes or that he didn’t listen to me? Perhaps I should not give an inch, and take high offense that he “changed the plan” on me, then go online and complain. I decided to give Ryan an ear, and by the time we were done talking, even though I emotionally wasn’t there yet, decided to trust him on the color scheme. Now, two weeks later, I’m there emotionally and believe the change will be good.

    I share this because Vapor Audio truly seems to be a custom speaker shop, not a “crank out the basic template” factory. My wife has a small high end costume jewelry business called Splendor by Connie Schroeder (Yes, that is a shameless plug because I am very proud of her!), and she would be driven nuts to produce myriads of cookie cutter products. She makes nearly every piece unique. I see Ryan similarly; he wants each speaker to be a creation, an expression of artistry and excellence. Engaging with a company like this is quite different than walking into a B&M audio shop and buying a speaker. If the audiophile doesn’t want to have any inconveniences involved in obtaining a custom speaker, then they should not buy a Vapor Audio speaker. They can go and spend two to four times as much to buy a speaker on a perfectly tracked timeline for delivery which will have a very good chance of sounding worse.

    I do feel for people who engaged with Vapor early thinking there would be hard timelines, no potential disappointments, etc. They likely have a very different view of Vapor. OTOH, there are some truly callow, demanding, quite unreasonable people who will tell only half the story online, and who when they get it stuck in their craw will become quite vengeful in an attempt to hurt the manufacturer. I sometimes hear the horror stories from manufacturers who must tolerate customers from Hell, even when the manufacturer has gone far beyond reason to satisfy the customer. The manufacturers swallow their anger and frustration rather than damn the customer publicly, for they fear it will hurt their business more than just letting it go.

    So, Alan, I am going to cut this right down the middle; Vapor operates in a fashion which disgruntles certain audiophiles, and conversely there are certain PITA audiophiles who should never buy a speaker from any company which they cannot receive reassurance, nearly down to the minute.

    I chose to largely ignore any controversies in forums for that reason, for the same reason I prefer not to walk into quicksand. I shared my experience candidly so that others can weigh it for themselves. I have never been a fan of the politics involved in my hobbies, so don’t hold your breath waiting for me to resolve such issues. :)

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  4. Hi Doug,

    Reading your review almost made me blush. You put into words exactly how I felt when Ryan and I first powered up Nimbus White. It was without a doubt the most amazing audio experience I’d had to that time. Then, Joule White happened . . .

    I just want to point out that while I do handle Arte Forma in the US, I’m only designing a single amplifier for Arte Forma. Norman Yang’s team in Formosa is responsible for their excellent lineup. I’ve only consulted with them on a few things related to electrical engineering questions.

  5. Alan Hendler says:

    I heard both the Nimbus and the Joule at the last Rockey mountain show. The Nimbus was being driven by a single ended tube amp while the Joule was driven by a solid state amp. The Nimbus with tubes was much better sounding than the Joule. The Nimbus with the tube amp had a very livefeel to it while the Joule simply sounded on the dull side. If I was in the market for a speaker I would definitely consider the Nimbus but not the Joule. I think it is a mistake to by a speaker that you have not listened to. By the way I have Maggie 3.6 driven by a Shindo preamp and two Berning ZH-270 power amps. This combo is still the best I have ever heard but the Nimbus with tubes is close
    Alan Hendler

  6. Peter and Alan,
    God’s Joy to you Gentlemen,

    Peter, thank you for your clarification; sometimes the seemingly small assumptions or terms are misused, leading to great confusion. I have attempted an editorial fix for the article since this has been brought to my attention.

    Alan H, I do not doubt your experience; the sound caliber of the Vapor speakers are such that they dramatically show the nature of the gear ahead of them. In addition, the delights of show goers varies incredibly. I might have concluded the same as you had I heard the two speakers set up as they were. In fact I had heard similar comments from others, so your helpful comment has already been factored into my decision.

    Knowing what a Vapor speaker can do in terms of varying sound with different electronics, and having walked through in careful discussion every aspect of the differences in design, construction and performance between the Nimbus and Joule with Ryan, I am pretty confident that I am making the right move, especially since upper end drivers from the RAAL and Accuton lines are employed in the Joule White. You notice also that Peter alludes in his post above to the Joule being superior holistically. Who knows? You may be right, but I don’t think so. :)

    You have lovely pre/amplification; I am imagining what it would sound like with the King Sound King III ESL. You might wish to read my thought provoking reviews of the King and then the King III, both of which are found on this website. Brace yourself for my assessment of other panels as compared to the KingIII.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  7. Chuck Groeller says:

    As a current owner of the Joule Whites I believe you will be MORE than satisfied with your decision.
    The best thing that I can say about them is that when people hear them they don’t want to leave. It’s always oh, just play one more song which leads to just one more song and one more song. Enjoy!

  8. Chuck,
    God’s Joy to you,

    Thanks! I don’t think I’m making a mistake, either! It would be awfully difficult to improve upon the driver set across the board and with the same designer end up with a poorer speaker. That’s just not going to happen. Even mass marketed speaker manufacturers can easily improve upon their models as the line goes higher. So, when Ryan indicates the Joule White is perceptually about 30% better, I do not find that difficult to believe.

    Part of the problem is that the Nimbus is so fantastically visually appealing that people begin to think it must sound better. I find myself so enamored not just of the sound, but also the appearance that it is hard to contemplate selling it. But one does not achieve greater things by sitting with the status quo, however, lovely it may be.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  9. Ryan Scott says:

    First off, thank you so much Doug for the thoughtful and thorough review! Also thanks to Dagogo for making it all possible. Being an outsider in the audio World, it’s a bit stressful trusting people you don’t know to convey to the World what your creations are all about. But those worries proved unfounded, the experience with Doug and Dagogo could not have been better.

    About the Joule at RMAF, when that side of the room was working properly they sounded quite nice if a bit thin. But we had many equipment failures, and ended up chasing our tails for the better part of the weekend. However, the pair of Joule that went to the show had 30 seconds, literally, of time on them before arrival. And no voicing had been done at all. When we got them back home we found the midrange was around 2-3db too hot, so the final product sounds much different than what was at the show. We’ll leave it to Doug to after he receives his pair to let people know just how they compare.

  10. Runi says:

    Hi
    Great looking speaker, no questioning that. Bet they sound as good also. Can these compare with brands like Magico, WilsonSasha, Tad or other known brands? Will try and get me one pair of these…Do you consider these to be ” first generation” Nimbus, since they are quite new, and will they improve even more within the next year? I miss a stand where it would be able to adjust the tilting/angle of the speaker, since not all floors a 100% horizontal. Is that something you have considered?

  11. Michael Brown says:

    I was at the audio show in Denver and can attest to Ryan’s frustration with the equipment problems powering the Joules so evaluating that speaker at that show is not a fair depiction of the speakers potential. I am sure Doug the reviewer will play with a lot of stuff to get the best sound possible in his room which will be nothing short of spectacular . I have my Cirrus back at Vapor to have a base unit designed for them so I can get to (I hope) 85 – 90% of what the joule will sound like… I was quite enamored with the look and sound of the Nimbus at the show and if the Joule is better whew… As with most boutique companies be patient and be rewarded…

  12. Paul Mah says:

    So Doug, did you like the speaker? Just kidding. I too thought the Nimbus performance/price ratio was off the charts as evidenced in my Newport Beach show report. Constantine gave you the long straw for the review, so I live vicariously from your review.

    Cheers,
    Paul

  13. Runi, Michael,
    God’s Peace to you both,

    Regarding whether the Nimbus White can compare with brands like Magico, Wilson, etc. – all speakers can be compared, as we well know. I assume you mean “compared favorably,” and though I have not done so directly I would answer yes. I have heard Magico, Wilson, TAD, etc. and the Nimbus White while not perhaps made from an in-house design process is made from an extreme performance perspective. As such it performs way past it’s price point, and I believe into the territory of these other speaker brands. Whether one would consider it superior is a subjective judgment, but it would not be a foolish thought to consider the Nimbus White when thinking of these other speakers.

    Like many other manufacturers the design is subject to running changes, and I assume Ryan will incorporate them. This question is best directed to Vapor Audio, as I do not wish to speak for the company regarding design particulars which may or may not come about. I know one thing; an audiophile can pine for the “next version,” forever and never acquire the fantastic products of a manufacturer. To do so with the Nimbus White at such prices would, imo, be very short-sighted.

    Finally, the speaker has adjustable spikes, as with nearly every quality floor standing speaker.

    Michael, that sounds like a thrilling update to get an accompanying bass module! Yes, the Nimbus is a stunner, but sonically I fully expect it to be fairly easily surpassed by the Joule. I have learned not to place limits on what I expect can happen in terms of performance; there have been too many times that the doubt, “It can’t get much better than this,” has been shattered by a new product/model.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  14. Robert says:

    Pete/Ryan: congratulations – have been out of audio for quite a while but wanted to say “GREAT!” on Vapor and becoming successful in the hobby.

    Cheers / Robert (old PE Board/inDIYana/Iowa guy)

  15. Faisal says:

    Hi Doug,

    So how do you compare this speaker to the Giya G1, in terms of dynamics, imaging, and naturality among other attributes?

    Thanks,
    Faisal

  16. Faisal,
    God’s Peace to you,

    In brief, I would not compare many speakers to the Vivid speakers, as they are exquisite. I would, however, compare the Vapor speakers to the Vivid. I cannot speak definitively about it, as I have not had both in my room. From hearing the Vivid line at various shows I would suggest that many of the characteristics of superior sound found in the Vivid brand are also present in the Vapor brand.
    Generally, I would rate them both as superb in terms of micro dynamics, but the Nimbus White superior in terms of macrodynamics. As regards imaging, the Giya G1 model is better only because the Nimbus White incorporates dual Mids; in this regard the G1 would be more closely matched with the Joule White. “Natural” is a fairly nebulous term when it comes to audiophile, however, I have heard them both sound convincing in terms of fooling the ear into thinking it is hearing a live event.

    Additionally, the Nimbus White is the best dynamic speaker I have used to date in terms of imitating the speed, coherence and scale of a panel speaker like the King Sound King III.

    Perhaps you would also like to reach out to Ed Momkus of Dagogo, as he has the Giya G1, I believe.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  17. Guy Azrouel says:

    What a GREAT review!
    I loved every line of it.

    I now see that I’m no different then others, still waiting for Ryans reply to my e-mail.
    I was just about to give up and move to the two or three other candidates when I read this review that I decided to wait a bit longer…

    However, I am using a pair of VTL MB-125 monoblocks.
    These puppies run at 55W in triod and 100W in tetrode.
    (The triod is greatly better and my end choice).
    So my concern is would my VTL’s be enough??
    After all, a 15″ driver is not child’s play and the specs list a much higher recommended amp supply than a 55W push pull.

    What do you think? Have you tried the Nimbus White with anything similar?

  18. Guy,
    The Joy of God to you,

    No, you are not being discriminated against by Ryan for having to wait. Vapor Audio is “under the gun” with success exceeding current capability to make speakers – what a horrible problem, eh? I have been in conversation with Ryan several times and know the maddening delays he’s experienced with third party parts suppliers. Things are moving forward, just not as smoothly as a company with an in house CNC machine, etc.

    I have also had delays on my planned Joule White upgrade, some of them due to upgrades Ryan and I have been discussing, and others due the aforementioned issues. I’m not foolish, however, such that I would get pissed off and cancel my order. That would be a dumb move, given the performance level to cost of a Vapor speaker – even after the price increase.

    Vapor is not a churn-it-out, cookie cutter speaker manufacturer, but instead a custom speaker builder. The eyes and ears pretty easily see and hear what the result is if an individual can endure some wait time, even if it is extended.

    Regarding the 55wpc VTL’s, no, this is not ideal. However, Ryan has run lower powered amps with his speakers at times at shows and they have sounded satisfactory to him. I certainly would not dismiss the speaker for that reason. I would much prefer hearing a superior speaker with a bit underpowered amp, than an inferior speaker with plenty of power. One simply cannot make an inferior speaker take the performance leap to compete well.

    Would a higher powered amp result in a different experience? Of course, but I suggest it would be a mistake to turn away from the Vapor speaker simply because it might be underpowered. Would it be “enough”? That’s your determination, but if it wasn’t enough, I would strongly suggest you get a different amp, perhaps upgrade the VTL to another model, rather than dump the Vapor speaker. This is a case where if it doesn’t sound right, you change anything else, not the speaker.

    Finally, you might just conclude that with the right cables you prefer the VTL in tetrode with the Vapor. I have had similar changes in preference in regard to an amp’s operational mode when switching speakers. I would certainly not discount that possibility, but would try it!

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

    • Guy Azrouel says:

      Hey Douglas,

      Thank you for the informative and kind reply.
      I fully acknowledge what you are saying regarding the long lead time duration’s in contrast of the the Vapor product level which by all means seem to be exquisite.
      I have no problem with a long wait for a new speaker of this grade, after all, bringing together a proper hi-end system takes a tremendous amount of time & energy and obviously patience.
      After reading your review I just made a switch in the state of mind regarding Vapor. 😉

      Regarding my current amps,
      Well, upgrading was not in the initial plan. I’m very very happy with them.
      But as stated, I assumed from first glance at the Nimbus that 55wpc push pull won’t do the job.
      So I started investigating, and I regretfully have to say that the Nimbus is becoming ever far from making it to my home.
      I’ll explain,
      I live in Israel. So I am buying blind.
      I spoke to Ryan last year, Vapor does not participate at the annual Munich hi-end show.
      They are (at this point) only within US shows.
      So for me, listening to them has pretty much become impossible.
      Now, we’re looking at ~$15,000 / $20,000 for a pair of Nimbus Whites or Joule (bearing in mind a few upgrades).
      Shipping, local tax, import fees, paperwork etc. all come to around $5000-$7000.
      I am OK with that.
      But, if I end up spending another ~$5000 upgrading the VTL’s it’s just way off budget.
      And I must say, there is no scene in this adventure.

      All this said with conceptual comprehension that I like the sound.
      If not, I’m pretty much screwed (pardon my french).

      I’ll wait for Ryan’s reply and see what are he’s thoughts.
      I do hope for the best, like I said, I’m keeping an open mind.

      All the best!

      p.s.
      Looking forward to you’r next ‘Vapor’ review!!!

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