Exciting, innovative and high-quality loudspeakers with the build quality of a grand piano cost a fortune... don't they? Perhaps not, John R. Potis Jr., unleashes the latest NHT black mini-monoliths and discovers a new industry benchmark.
Many thanks go to Mr. Eric Suh and Mr. Matt Garfein for their help and for providing the review sample.
|NHT (Now Hear This) SuperTwo Loudspeaker Specifications|
System Type: 3-way vented design
|Sensitivity: 87dB (2.83V at 1M)
Impedance: 8 ohms nomnial, 3.8 ohms minimum
Recommended Amplifier 25 w/ch minimum, 175W/ch maximum
Inputs: 5-way binding posts
Weight 39lbs each
Dimensions: 39"H x 7¼"W x 10"D
Finish: High-gloss black laminate
|(All specifications as per manufacturer)|
NHT SuperTwo Loudspeakers
I believe NHTs introduction of the new SuperTwo loudspeaker is an important event for a couple of reasons. First, I know dealers and NHT fans alike were awaiting the first new product since the departure of Ken Kantor - NHTs co-founder and VP of technology. Questions abound such as "Will NHT take a new direction in the market place?"; "Can NHT uphold its place in the market where matters of quality and value are concerned?" and "Will a new product measure up to the NHTs of the past?"
The second reason it was an important event was because the SuperTwo promised to be an improvement on the much heralded SuperZero and SuperOne speakers that proceeded it in terms of bass extension and dynamics while maintaining the sound that made NHT a favorite among the affordable ranks.
I hope to answer all of these questions within one tidy review.
First, the departure of Ken Kantor from NHT shouldnt be as catastrophic as some may have feared. Bill Bush, the man credited for the design of the SuperTwo, is hardly new to "Team NHT". Bush joined NHT as an acoustical engineer in 1990, and was promoted to Chief Engineer in 1992. As a matter of fact, in Stereophiles "Manufacturers Comments" section following its 1993 review of NHTs flagship speaker - the 3.3, Ken Kantor listed Bill Bush as the chief engineer on the project. Further, Kantor credits Mr. Bush for the design of the "1259"- the 12-inch woofer used in the 3.3 which is now considered by some to be one of the best 12 inch drivers in the industry. It is also a fact that Mr. Bush was with NHT for the introduction of the SuperZero, which proceeded the SuperOne and many of the NHTs we know today, which were the speakers that put NHT on the map. So, as you can see, there is hardly some rookie at the helm of the design team at NHT and this should put the first question to rest.
As for matters of the sound of the NHT SuperTwo&.well, you are going to have to read on for that one!
Matters of appearances and taste&
Initial impressions of the NHT SuperTwo were extremely positive. They are possibly the neatest looking pair of NHTs ever. With a footprint only 7½ inches wide and 10 inches deep, only a Smurf could think them imposing. Finished in the stock gloss black laminate, I thought they exuded elegance and taste both with and without their grills in place. At only 39 inches high, they were just tall enough to deliver the goods to a seated listener, but still diminutive enough to compliment rather than dominate a décor.
Matters of Fairness&.
Evaluating these speakers proved to be a little difficult for me. Just as a teacher is prone to expect more from the more gifted students in the class, I was a little more demanding of the SupeTwos than maybe I should have been. But this really wasnt my fault - it was the fault of the speakers. They begged for it. They taunted me saying, "Go ahead, pick me apart if you can!" Of course, I could in absolute terms, but not in terms of their price and class. In terms of their price, I have to say right now that I know of no other sub $1K speaker that is as good, let alone better. They sound so good across the board that it was difficult to point my finger at any single aspect of their performance as something that stood out from the rest.
I found myself sitting before the SuperTwos thinking that I must be nuts. Why couldnt I just be happy with a speaker like this and quit chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the audiophiles rainbow? Taken on their own, there was just nothing I could fault about these speakers. Only in direct comparison to other (more expensive) speakers could I criticize. Such direct comparisons may show off the SuperTwos weaknesses, or rather- the other speakers strengths, but it also begs the question "Are the more expensive speakers worth the additional money?" Of course, only you, the listener, can answer that one. So just let me preface the rest of this review by saying that they outperformed all of my expectations and if Im too hard on them&its not my fault.
Matters of Sound&
As I said before, the SuperTwos were a little difficult to fault in terms of sound. While they are not perfect, they are all that anybody can reasonably expect for the asking price and beyond. Fortunately, they are rather easy to talk about. For instance, the fist thing to grab my attention was the bass response. Bass was exceptionally articulate and generous. On most pop music, they offer just about all the extension one is likely to need or wish for. Unlike many speakers of the NHTs size, the SuperTwos did NOT require a lot of help from room boundaries to achieve this bass response either. Placed up to four feet from the rear wall (where imaging always benefits), bass was abundant and well defined.
As excellent as the bass performance was, it was no more so than the midrange presentation. Clean, detailed and crisp, midrange articulation is perhaps the most important aspect of the SuperTwos performance because as good as the bass is, were it mated to a sloppy or opaque midrange, the whole thing would be for naught. On this count, the SuperTwos excel.
I have to say though that things didnt start so well. Before some heavy-duty break-in, I heard some upper-midrange glare that could be annoying depending on the source material. Female vocals were affected, as were upper registers of strings and percussion. Eventually, several factors were responsible for the elimination of this anomaly. First was break-in, which reduced it significantly. Second was eliminating any toe-in, and lastly was playing with room positioning. In the end, I was able to completely eliminate it. While I would never call the midrange overly "warm", it was, in the end, exceptionally neutral and clean.
Treble performance was where the SuperTwos suffered most in comparison with other, considerably more expensive systems. Ohhhhh, that sounded more harsh than I wanted it to because taken on their own - the treble was nothing to sneeze at. I found it to be considerably extended, smooth and neutral. Only when compared with more expensive designs (see! I told you I wouldnt be able to be fair!), the treble sounded a little closed in and lacking in air and ultimate transparency. I hasten to add that Im comparing the sound of a $750 pair of speakers to the sound of a $2,500 pair of NHTs own 2.9s and that I know of no speaker in its own class that can outperform it and precious few can even compete.
Matters of Imaging&
By now, you should know me as an imaging freak. I cant help it, its just the way I am. It was in terms of imaging where I found the SuperTwos Achilles heel. While sound-staging is wide and expansive with very good specificity, in my room it did lack some depth. While by no means are they an "in-your-face" speaker, I was never able to achieve the kind of depth some other speakers have given me in my room. On the plus side, the image did start slightly beyond the two speakers - it just never went as deeply beyond that point as I could have hoped.
Matters of listening&
The SuperTwos were always easy to listen to and enjoy. As I said before, considering their class, they just never left me wishing for anything more.
Pop and Rock CD after Pop and Rock CD proved at once enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable because these are maga-enjoyable speakers, frustrating because they left so little to make commentary upon! But its my job, so Ill try!
I've been listening to a lot of SuperTramps 1997 release "Some Things Never Change" (Silver Cab 63245-90002-2). The opening track "Its A Hard World" demonstrated the imaging characteristics of the SuperTwo to great effect. The opening "noise" sequence was wide and tall, with excellent sense of "space". The bass lines that follow were full bodied and detailed. Rick Davies vocals were perfectly in focus between the speakers while John Helliwells off-stage-right and slightly "phasey" vocal contributions were perfectly placed and reproduced. This recording is definitely "bass abundant" and the SuperTwos were well up to the task.
Again, on Dire Straits "On Every Street" (Warner 9 26680-2) the SuperTwos excelled. My lateral imaging test cut "You And Your Friend" sounded as good as I expected and Knopflers voice always sounded as Ive come to know it suffering neither an artificial "chestyness" or anemia. Guitars had terrific "bite" and drums were full bodied and fast. Good performance across the board with no surprises, until you remember that its a pair of $750 speakers youre listening to!
Another bass affluent CD Ive been listening too is Dream Theaters "A Change of Seasons" (East/West 61842-2). The opening cuts rich electric bass lines were full and dramatic. Drum whacks were eventful and weighty and electric guitar was "big" and rich. Over the SuperTwos, my favorite rock medley, uh& "The Big Medley" left very little to be desired. Vocals were clean and focused and the music was hard and driving - pushed along by voluminous amounts of bass. It was about now when I noticed another aspect of the SuperTwos peformance. They play loud. Maybe not as loud as your favorite 15" three-way, but they do play loud enough to fulfill most sane expectations and they play louder more cleanly than Ive ever gotten my SuperZeros with a sub-woofer to play. After crossing over from the bottom-firing woofer at 120Hz, the 6½inch midrange can cruise along from 120Hz on up thus allowing them to play louder without typical congestion or compression problems that can afflict other speakers.
Only on Classical could I wish for more from the bass region. On familiar classical containing lots of deep, first octave bass, it was clear that these nethermost regions of bass were beyond the reach of the SuperTwos. James Horners sountrack to "Casper" (MCAD 11240) is one hell of a bass rich CD. The opening track "No Sign of Ghosts" can make much larger speakers sound swollen with bass. On the SuperTwos, much of the weight of the cut was MIA. "Jurassic Park"(MCAD 10859) demonstrated the same thing. Dont misunderstand, at no time did the SuperTwos ever sound "lightweight". No& not at all. As a matter of fact, I was feeling everything through my chair! So where do you go if you want this kind of bottom octave bass performance? To a larger and more expensive speaker, thats where! I wish I knew of a speaker in and around the SuperTwos price point that could do any better, but I dont. So dont despair, from 35 Hz up, these SuperTwos will knock your socks off and unless you are already spoiled by huge subwoofer performance (which I am), you may not even get a hint of what is missing. So why do I even bring it up!? Honestly, Im not sure. I guess its because the speakers are such overachievers in other areas, like that advanced student, it just left me wishing for more. I told you these speakers made it hard to be fair! They make me look that gift horse right in the mouth! But to be clear, while they didnt plumb the depths of sub-woofer territory, down to 35Hz or so, they were exemplary. Geez, a few years ago 35Hz bass extension from a speaker this size and price was unheard of!
You know - I do enjoy listening to expensive speakers, but I also love finding great affordable speakers. To me, finding great pieces that everybody can afford is where its at. This is why Im so excited to report that the NHT SuperTwos are a real winner and if Im right about this, NHT is going to sell a ton of them. With great looks, great bass, superb midrange clarity and detail and an easy to take treble neutrality, the SuperTwos are one overachieving speaker that will shame most of its competition. They are as exciting to listen to as they are great to look at. For the asking price of $750 a pair, I predict that these speakers are bound to steal sales from many more expensive speakers too.
So, did the SuperTwos measure up to NHTs of the past? Oh, man!! These speakers are definitely cut from the NHT cloth and, if I may say so, may just have kicked NHTs reputation for being a "bang-for-the-buck" leader up a notch. Give them a listen for yourself and see if you dont join me in sending Bill Bush and the rest of the design team at NHT heartfelt kudos for a job well done!
Oh, while youre at it? Why dont you pick yourself up a pair!
Good luck and listening,
More information about NHT loudspeakers can be found within the Official NHT Web Site.
Text © John R. Potis Jr.; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © Telarc, John R. Potis & SMR Home Theatre cannot be reproduced without permission. The images on this page are digitally watermarked: Digimarc http://www.digimarc.com/
Last updated 02 August, 2000
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