HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



January
2001

Reviewed by
John Potis




NHT
VT-2.4/VS-2.4
Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: VT-2.4 speakers
Price: $1000 USD each
Dimensions: 48"H x 7.82"W x 18"D
Weight: 85 pounds each

Model: VS-2.4 speakers
Price: $450 USD each
Dimensions: 7.5"H x 19"W x 8"D
Weight: 18 pounds each

Warranty: Five years parts and labor


Features
  • Three-way vented tower design (VT-2.4), two-way acoustic suspension design (VS-2.4)
  • Forward-firing 1" fluid-cooled aluminum dome tweeter
  • 10" long-throw subwoofer (VT-2.4)
  • Two forward-firing 5.25" polypropylene midranges (VT-2.4), Two 5.25" long throw polypropylene woofers (VS-2.4)
  • Rear-firing 5.25"midrange and 1" soft-dome tweeter (VT-2.4)
  • Switchable for video (bipolar) and music (monopolar) operation (VT-2.4)
  • Video-shielded drivers (VS-2.4)

It has happened over and over throughout the history of specialty audio: A talented entrepreneur starts a company and then sells it to a large conglomerate; the world watches the company slip into the murky quagmire of corporate mediocrity. This was my fear for the future of NHT when one of its founding fathers, Ken Kantor, left to pursue other endeavors several years ago. Somewhat allaying those fears was NHT’s new chief of engineering, 10-year NHT veteran Bill Bush, and his first effort: the NHT SuperTwo. After auditioning the SuperTwo, I found it to be a neat speaker following in the NHT tradition of offering great value and performance in a very affordable package. But the SuperTwo was a fairly simple project in comparison to the redesign of NHT’s successful VT series of speakers, and I was happy to have the opportunity to hear the fruit of Mr. Bush’s latest efforts to determine if these too rested within proximity of the family tree.

The design room

First up is the VT-2.4, a complete redesign of the venerable VT-2. A tall tower designed for home theater, the VT-2 was distinctive for its front-panel variable crossover. At the flip of this switch, the crossover point was chosen for a larger and more diffuse image that many found more suitable for movies than for serious music listening. Flip the switch again and the crossover point changed, making for a speaker with a more focused soundstage.

Well NHT has taken a different approach with the new VT-2.4. It still has the front-mounted switch, but rather than changing crossover points, placing the switch in "video" mode activates a rear-mounted midrange driver and tweeter, creating a speaker with a bipolar radiation pattern. The rear driver array operates 3.5dB down in level compared with the front drivers. Known for a large (if semi-diffuse) image, bipolar speakers have found favor with many videophiles. When the mood strikes for some serious music listening, another flick of the switch mutes the rear drivers, and you have the razor-sharp imaging craved by audiophiles.

Consistent with earlier designs, the VT-2.4 remains a tall, narrow and deep design with a side-firing woofer. Located on the speakers’ rear panel, just below the flared port, are two sets of five-way binding posts -- for those who wish to biwire or biamp.

Lacking the fancy accouterments of its larger brethren, the VS-2.4 is a smallish two-way satellite speaker utilizing the same midrange (two of them) and treble drivers in the same configuration as in the VT-2.4. The VS-2.4's cabinet is notable for a rather unique geometry, which is designed to be comfortable in either a vertical or horizontal orientation. And the multifaceted design also gives two options for horizontal placement: one that has the speaker projecting upward (for below-monitor placements) and the other projecting parallel to the floor (for top-of-the-monitor placements). NHT also includes an assortment of brackets, which attach to the speakers via predrilled holes for those needing a "custom" orientation.

The VS-2.4 is finished with a single pair of binding posts, and the enclosure is sealed. All the review speakers were finished in NHT’s signature gloss-black, high-pressure laminate -- a finish that I’ve found to be tough, durable, and handsome.

The listening room

NHT didn’t prescribe any break-in period, and I didn’t allow for one. I threw the speakers right into the game with no warm-up. They didn’t mind -- they came dressed to play.

I usually like to start with a two-channel session to aid in the assessment of a speaker’s sound, and that’s what I did. What I heard was a speaker cut directly from the NHT cloth. The two most notable characteristics were deep, powerful and tight bass (common to most floorstanding NHTs) and a distinctly forward and exciting midrange. NHT specifies the bass response of the VT-2.4 down to 24Hz, and they sound like it. NHT did not include a subwoofer with this home-theater speaker system, insisting that one was not needed, and indeed one is not. The midrange is extraordinarily clean and detailed for a speaker in this class. The treble is extended and still slightly forward, but not so much as the upper midrange and not in an irritating way. On good recordings, the VT-2.4’s treble can sound wonderful and alive. On rough or grainy recordings, the NHT speakers present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When coupled to the 150Wpc Odyssey Audio Stratos amplifier, these speakers sounded outrageously dynamic too. The VT-2.4s kept pace with large dynamic swings and seemingly never broke a sweat.

The theater room

In the theater system, the fun showed no signs of letting up. To the contrary, the VT-2.4s quickly acquitted themselves as one well-matched, coherent, and dynamic system. No matter what I threw at them, they handled it with poise and style. While the odd CD may have caused them to sound a little rough around the edges, I found every movie soundtrack and concert video I auditioned to sound utterly composed. The superbly voice-matched system of speakers provided as seamless a presentation as I've ever heard, reminding me of the Dynaudio Audience 5.1 system I reviewed last year. This is high praise.

Tonally, dynamically, and in overall performance, the VT-2.4 comes closer to the Polk Audio RT3000 than any speaker I've had through here in the last couple of years. Both speakers share similarly excellent bass. The NHT speaker does dig subjectively a little deeper, while it gives up a little bit in the way of punch to the Polk. The midrange of both speakers is clean and detailed, with the NHT being slightly more forward than the Polk, which has a more easy-going character. If memory serves, both speaker systems have similar treble -- both very good for the class. True, the Polk speaker does sell for a bit more than the NHT, which makes the NHT seem an excellent value. But keep in mind that the Polk RT3000 includes powered and adjustable "subwoofers." The playing field can be leveled, though, through the purchase of a bass amp from NHT. Anyway you slice it, both are excellent examples of powerful-sounding full-range speakers in their class, and they are among the best I've heard.

Among the concert DVDs I enjoyed over the NHTs was Peter Frampton’s Live in Detroit. If you don’t have this DVD, get it. It’s an excellent recording of a wonderful performance, and if you listen only to the Dolby Digital soundtrack and only from the sweet spot, you may not even notice that this version makes no use of the center channel at all. And truth be told, I listened to it about six or seven times before I noticed! That’s how solid a center image I got from the two NHT VT-2.4s. Even after the realization that I was running sans center channel, I still could not have wanted for a more solid center image. Soundstaging was excellent, as there was an admirable sense of space, both in front of me and around me. I mentioned before about how dynamically capable the NHT system is, and on occasion, I found myself playing at slightly higher levels than even I usually enjoy. Like every NHT speaker I’ve auditioned, these new speakers like to rock and roll. Their lively upper midrange performance in combination with rock-solid bass and big, dynamic sound make them well suited to this genre of music.

But that is not to say that the sublime James Taylor Live At Beacon Theater DVD was not completely served by the NHTs. As stated earlier, when the recording is excellent, so sounds the NHT system. This DVD proved just how smooth and refined the NHTs can sound with the right program source. The harmony of Taylor’s backing vocals were fully resolved and delineated both in terms of harmonic content and stage presence. The delicate sound of the chimes at the end of "Another Day" as well as the warmly textured richness of the accompanying cello stood in stark contrast to the boisterous and hard-driving Frampton DVD. The softly struck cymbals on "Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" were delicately and realistically portrayed, as they possessed that ring of truth. And always I was surrounded by that coherent and seamless sense of envelopment.

If you are looking for a cinematic tour de force with which to evaluate a system, you need look no further than The Negotiator. By the end of the movie I had pages and pages of listening notes -- that began in the middle of the opening credits no less. This soundtrack is chock-full of explosive bass, lots of panning sound effects, and a variety of acoustic environments and helicopter fly-overs. Well, it just so happens that explosive dynamics are the NHT’s forte! Which is not to say that the NHTs don’t understand low-level resolution. Check out chapter 6, where Danny Roman’s pager goes off. Its buzzing sounds totally authentic and convincing. But moments later when his partner gets blown away while sitting behind the wheel of his car, I’m reminded of the lightning-quick transient response as well as the bass shudder that the VT-2.4/VS-2.4 system can render. Want to be transported to a completely different acoustic environment? Cue up chapter 9, in which Nate’s wife confronts our tail-spinning hero in the lobby of the city administration building. Listen for the expansive and ultra-hard acoustic that the all-marble location provides. Moments later there is a low bass rumble that accompanies the meeting with the city’s chief prosecutor. Ordinarily this would be subwoofer territory, but the VT-2.4s didn’t flinch.

But the movie isn’t all aural fireworks (there is a story to be told!), and during the less-explosive scenes is where I had the chance to appreciate the more subtle aspects of the NHT system. Center-channel performance, for example, was admirable. Never chesty or obviously colored and suffering no undue sibilant emphasis, voices were projected with artifact-free neutrality. The numerous crowd scenes demonstrated the system's all-around coherence and neutrality, as I was immersed in the frenzy. But if it’s fireworks you want, cue up chapter 30, when the "full breech" is ordered on the hostages. Close your eyes and listen as the glass panel blows and you hear the large pane of glass explode in front of you immediately followed by the rush of the shards as they speed at you until they collide with the wall behind you. The NHTs pulled off this feat in a flawless and lucid way. Or try chapter 33, where the grenade is used in an attempt to start a fire. The grenade explodes with such a quake that I felt my pants shudder against the front of my legs. That was impressive!

Conclusion

I make no secret that I’ve always liked the NHT line of speakers. Historically they have a deserved reputation of offering great performance at a great price. The newly redesigned VT-2.4/VS-2.4 series speakers under review here are no different. They are honest speakers that can get raw and raunchy when required to, but they can morph into something smooth and refined when coaxed. They have a slightly forward quality that will especially appeal to pop and rock listeners, and they have rock-solid bass and subjectively limitless dynamics that will appeal to all. In the theater, the VT-2.4s and VS-2.4s proved to be superior performers, exhibiting all the aforementioned qualities with the addition of total system coherence. The VT-2.4 might look bigger and badder than the unimposing VS-2.4, but bass response aside, they speak with the same voice. At $3350 for the complete 5.1 system, they are neither cheap nor expensive, and I don’t think there is any denying that they are a great value.

Review System
Amplifiers - Adcom GFA 7000 (multichannel), Odyssey Audio Stratos (stereo)
Processor - Parasound AVP 2500u
Source - Pioneer DV 525 DVD player
Cables - DH Labs BL-1 interconnects, D-75 digital interconnect, Monster Cable speaker cables
Monitor - Proscan PS36700 direct-view
 

Manufacturer contact information

NHT
527 Stone Road
Benicia, California 94510
Phone: 1-800-NHT-9993
Fax: (707) 747-1252

E-mail: please see website
Website: www.nhthifi.com

 


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