You don't need a huge house to have the ultimate sound system. NHT has incorporated advanced processors that can gauge the size of any room, and make the sound truly your own. The system features two small speaker cabinets, a powered subwoofer and a processor/amplifier -- all designed to eliminate distortion, making any spot in the room the "sweet" one. It's also upgradeable, which is good news since you'll want to hang onto these for a long while.
My system is Vienna Acoustics Baby Beethoven speakers , REL R 505 sub, Primare integrated amp (I21) and the Classic SqueezeBox 3. Cables are made by Cobalt for speakers; audioquest for the RCA link between SB3 and the integrated amp. I bought my system in 2005 (except the SB3 which I bought in 2006).
All my music is lossless stored on a computer (more than 700 CDs that now sit in the garage) and played wireless through SB3; this way there is no mechanical noise from the player (like a CD/SACD player would have). Of course the computer that stores the music is in a different room - all those noisy computer fans I can't stand...
The MSRP cost of the VA/Primare/REL system is 3995$ (VA) + 1995$ (REL) + 1495 (I21) + 130$ (10 AWG Cobalt cables) + 8.25% CA taxes = 8.243$
I am as happy as I can be with my system BUT (here I go) I am always reading reviews and listening to (too) many speakers (some I couldn't afford) at many dealers.
Long story short, I ordered the NHT XD 2.2 in special dark, factory-direct.
I was thinking - if a don't like the NHT I will sell them on Audiogon (yes I will loose some money but there is no place that let's me audition them). If I like them better than my current setup (I thought that was unlikely) I might keep both. After all, the VA/Primare/REL combination is as good as I can afford. The only speakers I like better than my Beethovens and under 15k$ are the Martin Logan Summit X. Now that is way above my pay level and my wife wouldn't approve either way (don't bring those UFOs in our house, OK?). Speakers more expensive than that make no sense to me. A lot of doubtful (pseudo) technology go in such esoteric and expensive speakers - my 2c. Also - do not try justifying me k$ cables - it makes me laugh.
on one of my preferred websites.
The snake oil sells today well in the form of k$ cables and 10K$ plus passive crossover speakers.
Now let's have at it - comparison between VA/Primare/REL and the NHT XD 2.2 or in other words how do 8243$ spent at Magnolia HiFi stack up against 3247 (3k$ + taxes) spent buying factory direct gear from NHT?
Looks and appearance first:
The VA are some gorgeous lookers - the kind of finish you rarely see. If you look at the binding posts in the back then it'll be clear for you - the Austrians from VA mean quality. And that is not only outside to be seen - read up on their website about their crossovers... Unless you are willing to spend a lot more I'd say the VA Beethovens are as good as it gets for a mortal's audio system.
The Primare amplifier is also a beautiful amplifier, simple, elegant and classy.
The RELL sub is also very nicely finished - a true black piano high gloss - really nice.
The NHT XDs speakers are very nicely finished - on par with the VA. I even consider the dark red chocolate/black piano high gloss finish better than the VA/RELL. The spikes that come with the stand are in metallic gun color (and no, I don't like guns) - nicest spikes I've seen in a long time. Now there are two things I am not really thrilled in the looks of the NHT XDs:
a) the cable that comes standard is not that cool looking
b) there is this butt ugly sticker on the back of the speakers with their serial #. You got to be kidding me! Nicer/better finish and look than the VA yet a piece of sticker on their back! Ouch! I might just peel that off. Blasphemy!
Now the XDa (XD's amplifier) is not very nice looking - plastic front plate and cheap looking leds. Nowhere close to the Primare look.
The XDw are very nice looking - better looking than the RELL.
If you have a cabinet to hide the HDA - everything else in the XD active package is gorgeous.
I like listening to baroque (I love organ) music and all king of fast, ear blasting punk/heavy metal. This (strange) combination music I like makes me hard to please when it comes to sound reproduction.
The VAs sound very relaxed with good imaging and clear mids while the highs sound silky smooth and mellow. They almost sound like they are meant to play Baroque music (even organ - with the REL subs) and Jazz. There is a sense of calm and precision (made in Vienna/Austria, remember?) in the sound of these speakers that gives you years of enjoyment listening to them.
The bass integration with the RELL is pretty good and the RELL never rattles and never booms - a sealed subwoofer, the only type of sub I like.
I could go on and on about their sound qualities but I'd rather skip to the critique part.
The high bass - low mids sounds a bit lifeless even with the RELL - almost missing a bit of energy/speed. Even at low levels there is plenty of details but when turned on a bit too loud the speakers distort a bit and the sound is not so relaxed anymore and no, it is not the amp, the knob is around 30 out of 75 when this is noticeable (there is some decent reserve in the amp). During my 4 years with this setup I can say the piano sounds a bit boxy at times, especially in the low mids. As good as they are these speakers will not rock the house - they just don't play that clear at acceptably loud volume.
On par with the best I ever listened to. And I have listened to a lot of gear in the 10-15K$ range and even above - Mahler from VA 13k$, Amati from SF 28K$, Summit and Summit X from ML 10 respective 14 k$, the 801/802 from B&W, old/new Tannoys, etc.
NHT is nothing less. If anything the NHT are better.
The XDa system can rock very LOUD and can play jazz very relaxed. With the 2.2 and the filter that sets the system to go down to 20Hz you can listened to organ music and it sounds real. You put the filter for high SPL and you can rock the house and still have plenty of bass down to 25Hz.
And the best is these speakers do not distort. One day I asked a friend of mine who is a motocross enthusiast what cars do you like (what qualities do you like in a car?) and the answer came without blinking: The kind of car you can drive at 120Mph and makes you think you're driving 60 Mph, in other words wells controlled, balanced cars with sharp steering.
That's how I feel about the NHT Xds - they can rock and sound effortless. They can play organ effortlessly and have all the glory detail.
The mids are very fast - I dare to say on par with the best electrostats - don't take my word for it, try them out.
The bass is fast, never boomy and never rattles. The highs are crisp detailed never too harsh but never mellow.
And all the speakers (bass and monitors) are sealed. Again - unbelievable sound, hard to describe. Precise, effortless and fast.
Instruments like piano and the organ never sounded more life like, ever. Large orchestras, rock bands never sounded so crisp.
After listening to the NHT I decided I have to part with the VA Beethovens/Primare/REL (Audiogon anybody?) - it makes no sense to me, they were dwarfed by the NHT XD.
All in all 3200$ spent at NHT is quite THE DEAL.
I know this system normally was 7200$ and even at that price I'd call it a bargain since it is as good as sound reproduction sounds.
You get an ACTIVE system - forget those noisy, 6db-18db slope passive crossovers. Time to move on.
In a world polluted by mediocre sounding 15k$ there are a very few of them that sound quite good.
NHT XDs active system sounds better than those and the technology used is fantastic.
This is a complete system, with matched cables, amplifier, subs and preamp, and offers breathtaking sound with incredible realism and accuracy. Setup could not be easier.
This system is eerily good. In fact, on several occasions I sat bolt upright thinking that someone had entered the room as an instrument entered the ensemble. These really sound like live instruments. Playing the Mapleshade Samplers, you can hear what a great recording sounds like--absolutely nothing but the performance itself. Soundstage spans to the edges of the speakers and beyond and then layers the presentation into the room, presenting holographic images. With some other speakers such as the Gallo Reference 3, the sound is open and detailed, but image specificity and size is not as accurate. The bottom end is tuneful and rhythmic, but is not bloated. For a price of less than $12,000, I don't think I have heard anything else that comes close.
I have owned or had extensive experience with Mission, Kef, B&W, Magnat, Proac, Martin Logan, Magnepan, Wilson, Aerial and Genesis speakers (amongst others) over the last 20 or so years. All of these have been representative of the best or near-best designs these companies were offering. I lived for several very happy years with a pair of Genesis Vs – a great speaker in the right environment. A recent move forced me into a much smaller room in which the Gens sounded downright bad.
On the advice of a dealer (in another state that couldn't even sell them to me) I went to audition a pair of NHT Xds. I had read the white paper, and while it sounded intriguing, I was very skeptical of its real-world performance. Class D amplification? Digital filtering? DSP? You’ve got to be kidding me…
I was not prepared for what I heard coming out of the diminutive little satellites/sub. They were set up in the rather large lobby area (probably 4-5X the size of my room) of a high-end store, and I have to tell you the sound was HUGE. Very detailed, but not in a fatiguing way – clear but musical. Very fast. Smooth. Precise imaging has always been the hallmark of small speakers – these things do it in spades. This is a very engaging system. It really pulls you into the music. I have heard excellent sound from excellent speakers before, and what I was hearing was just about as good as the best I’ve heard, a few caveats notwithstanding. The bass is very extended and tight, but doesn’t give me that last half-octave or so of the Genesis. Truth be told, had I not lived with it for 4 years, I would have probably not missed it. The bottom end on these speakers is *very* good, but it doesn’t draw so much attention to itself. You can’t really pick out where that separate subwoofer kicks in and takes over – they have done a really good job at integrating the parts to make a cohesive whole. Also, it will not play at ear-bleeding levels. I had a potential of close to 900 watts/channel going into my Gens, so they really never sounded like they were approaching the wall. These guys will play *very* loudly, but they’ll tell you when the party is about to end. The cool thing is, these are probably the first speakers I enjoy listening to at low levels - they sound gorgeous. I don't feel I need to crank them to "light them up", though, of course I still do.
One of the truly amazing things that I have *never* heard another speaker do is pretty much eliminate the “sweet spot”. You can get up and walk around the room, and the sound stays great – it is bizarre. You have got to hear it to believe it. The Xd have virtually eliminated beaming/lobing, so you are not chained to one position in one chair.
I went ahead and bought the only available pair in southern California and have had them for about 6 weeks now. They sound great in their new home, which is a less than ideal environment. The sounded great right out of the box and continued to open up as they broke in.
As a side note, I recently hosted a retirement party for a colleague of mine. The brass section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic was there. About midway through the party, someone walked through the room with my system and asked to hear it. Well, at that point, Rob's party ended while NHT's started as people peeled off, one by one, to come in and have a listen. To say they were mesmerized would not be an exaggeration.