Face Off: Front and Center NHT VS-2.4
While the VS-2.4 was the most expensive speaker in this grouping at $450, relativity is the key. Performance, ergonomics, and (why not) even appearance make this unit a pretty solid bargain. The VS-2.4 measures out at 7.5 inches high by 19 wide by 8 deep and weighs in at 17.5 pounds. It is available in a slick, high-gloss black or white laminate finish. The speaker employs two 5.25-inch polypropylene midbass drivers and a 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter. The crossover frequency is set at 2.4 kilohertz. The cabinet sports five-way gold-plated binding posts, areas to attach the supplied keyhole brackets for wall mounting, and a lift bracket that allows you to tilt the baffle down toward the listening positioning, should you mount it atop your television. According to the manual, the speaker is magnetically shielded, but our review sample showed obvious signs of electromagnetic interference that results from a lack of shielding. A quick call to the company confirmed that this should be an isolated incident and that the VS-2.4 is a shielded design.
C. The NHT VS-2.4 is very revealing and delivered the fullest, deepest bass in this Face Off.
Detail was the first quality that struck all of us about the VS-2.4. It maintains an excellent balance of naturalness and crisp detail that only occasionally (and briefly) causes it to stray from its otherwise effortless character. I already mentioned the momentary instances of ringing on the highest registers of the Diva's voice in The Fifth Element, and there were occasions during the Sheryl Crow cut on the DTS sampler disc when the NHT was slightly harsher than the more-mellow Phase Tech. Notice I used harsher as a relative term—at no point did any of us describe the VS-2.4 as harsh overall. There were simply times when it got a little more in our faces than the other two did—which some people prefer. Mike felt gunshots were more potent and engaging through the VS-2.4 than they had been through the Phase Tech and that there were instances where its abundant detail was a clear advantage.
|D. You'll find five-way gold-plated binding posts on the back of the VS-2.4, as well.|
We all agreed that the NHT delivered the fullest, deepest bass of the group. Subjectively, though, the NHT and Phase Tech were neck and neck in this department. The opening bass riffs from the Sheryl Crow cut are mixed heavily into the center channel, as well as the front speakers and sub, and all three centers did a nice job of driving this big, heavily amped sound through on their own. We all agreed that, once again, the difference between the Phase Tech and NHT in this regard was minuscule and ultimately came down to a matter of personal preference. Some like a little extra bass and a bigger sound here; some like a more-reserved, less-overpowering sound. The NHT's big punch in the lower registers never took away from its accuracy, though. The timbre of the bass (guitar) was dead-on and highly engaging. Like the other two speakers, the VS-2.4 is designed to be a multipurpose speaker, so it's not surprising that it can deliver clean, powerful bass without working that hard at it.
As is always the case with a highly detailed speaker, you are going to find yourself a little more at the mercy of your sources than you are with less-revealing models. I purposely included some cuts from The Blues Brothers to see how these speakers would handle a less-than-ideal soundtrack (in terms of pure accuracy, that is). While I love the movie and the music, the dialogue in this transfer is a bit on the hollow side—as it almost always is with older movies that didn't get a chance to benefit from the types of recording, mixing, and mastering that are available today. I was pleasantly surprised by the VS-2.4's handling of this dialogue. I was sure, after hearing its crisp detail on the earlier material, that the VS-2.4 was going to be done in by the inherent hollowness of these dialogue tracks, but this was not the case. Voices sounded virtually as clean and natural on the NHT as they did on the Phase Tech, which I expected to be clearly superior here, based on its warmth and neutrality. I've heard far less-revealing speakers have a much tougher time with this soundtrack than the NHT did. The panel was unanimous that the NHT's abundant detail only caused it to stray briefly from the path of neutrality with certain material (high female voices, cymbals, harmonicas) and that these short bursts were well worth it, considering the crisp punch it carries combined with the naturalness and engaging personality that it displays the vast majority of the time. Mike ultimately chose the NHT as his top pick because of its detail.
• Crisp, abundant detail
• Potent, accurate bass output
HT Labs Measures: NHT VS-2.4
This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the VS-2.4 center. Loudspeakers are measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input. On-axis response of the VS-2.4 center measures +1.5/-2.2 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An average of axial and (+/-15 degree) horizontal responses measures +1.0/-2.9 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 73 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 60 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 5.27 ohms at 186 Hz and a phase angle of -39.21 degrees at 3.0 kHz. Sensitivity averages 87.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.—AJ
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Dealer Locator Code NHT