War of the (Little) Worlds First Place
Glossy Perfection. The NHT SB-2.
Now Hear This! is located just north of the City by the Bay in Northern California, about 373 miles from our studio. They sent along four SB-2 bookshelf speakers, which were the largest main speakers in this test, each about the size of a shoe box. Inside the piano-gloss-black cabinet is a 1-inch metal-dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer. The SC-1 center channel employs dual 4.5-inch polypropylene woofers and the same 1-inch tweeter. The SW10 provides bass for this system, with a 150-watt amp powering a 10-inch polypropylene woofer in a ported cabinet.
As I sat back and watched the reviewers listen to this system, to a person, their body language changed. They went from the rigid posture of reviewers intent on writing distinct comments to a bunch of people relaxing and listening to music. They all heard it, and they knew they liked it. The NHTs just had a sound that was enjoyable enough to make them forget that they were listening to speakers and just enjoy the music. I can't think of higher praise for a speaker, and this is what I saw in the reviewers. So it was hardly surprising that almost everyone chose the NHT system as their favorite. The only exception was Claire, who ranked it second. These were the only speakers that had such a consistent response across our panel. Everyone liked these speakers, and that's saying a lot.
On the Holly Cole disc, the accolades came in packs. Chris thought the NHTs had the best voicing of the bunch, with powerful bass that never overwhelmed. Maureen used a word to describe the highs that I never thought I'd hear her use: sweet. I'm sure she meant "sweet," not "sweeeeet." Adrienne thought that the piano sounded warm and full and that there was a solid blend between the subwoofer and the satellites. Hilary also thought the piano sounded great and found that each instrument sounded distinct. She also said that she could easily imagine Cole on stage. Although Claire ranked this system second, she complimented the treble by saying that it wasn't harsh or annoying.
With Bach, the praise kept coming. Chris loved the open soundstage, as well as the warmth. Maureen thought the instruments sounded very musical and lifelike. Hilary summed up her impression of the sound with three simple words: beautiful, light, elegant. All that, and she hadn't even seen them yet (ironically, she placed them second to last in the looks department). Adrienne liked the full midrange, open sound, and bass. In her own words: "I found myself sitting back and enjoying the music, not critiquing." That about says it all. Claire just thought they were a little too bright, hence her preference for the mellower Morels.
With Star Wars, everyone commented on the bass. Praises ranged from "good rumble" to "serious bass." Claire thought it was a bit too rumbly, saying that it seemed like it was making the room vibrate. She did like the way the center channel reproduced dialogue clearly. Maureen thought the sound was quite enveloping, and Adrienne said that she noticed more in the surrounds than she did through the other systems. Hilary noted that the "good, detailed sound sets up the atmosphere of the scene."
Band of Brothers served up more of the same. Chris thought that the NHTs were immediate and realistic, with a nice bite on small munitions. Adrienne thought the bullets sounded good and that the explosions had a lot of energy. She also liked the blend between the high, mid, and low frequencies. Claire liked the smooth transitions from the front speakers to the surrounds but felt that the explosions were too mushy. Hilary said that the sound added to the drama.
The NHT system was our clear winner. These speakers combine a smooth, warm, inviting sound with solid looks. Granted, they don't measure as flat as the PSBs; but, in this case, character wins out over near-perfect accuracy.
HT Labs Measures: NHT SB-2 Speaker System
This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the SB-2 satellite (purple trace), SW10 subwoofer (blue trace), and SC-1 center channel (green trace). All passive loudspeakers were measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input and scaled for display purposes.
The SB-2's listening-window response (a five-point average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal and vertical responses) measures +2.11/–4.07 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. The –3dB point is at 63 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 55 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.39 ohms at 154 Hz and a phase angle of –45.07 degrees at 84 Hz. Sensitivity averages 84.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.
The SC-1's listening-window response measures +1.47/–2.07 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. An average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal responses measures +1.69/–2.96 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 105 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 87 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 5.88 ohms at 216 Hz and a phase angle of –24.28 degrees at 3.2 kHz. Sensitivity averages 85.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.
The SW10's close-miked response in Video mode, normalized to the level at 80 Hz, indicates that the lower –3dB point is at 35 Hz and the –6dB point is at 31 Hz. The upper –3dB point is at 129 Hz with the frequency control set to maximum.•AJ
• Glossy black; a looker
• Sweet sound
• Relaxing to listen to
SB-2 Bookshelf Speaker $400/pair
SC-1 Center-Channel Speaker $300
SW10 Subwoofer $500
Now Hear This!
Dealer Locator Code NHT