In recent years, NHT (the acronym stands for Now Hear This) has made waves with its excellent but expensive self-powered, DSP-controlled Xd speaker (favorably reviewed in August 2006 issue of The Absolute Sound). Fortunately, NHT has applied insights gleaned from the Xd development effort to create its affordable new Classic series speakers, which are said to represent the firm’s “best efforts to date in passive loudspeaker design.” To put that claim to the test, we chose a 5- channel system consisting of two Classic Four floorstanders used as L/R mains, one Classic Three C center channel, and a pair of Classic Three stand-mount monitors used as surrounds.
Significantly, the top Classic models all share a common, core three-driver array, which consists of a .7-inch aluminum dome tweeter, a 2-inch aluminum dome midrange, and a 6.5-inch aluminum-coned mid-bass driver. To this array, the Classic Four floorstander adds a 10-inch aluminum woofer in an internally isolated enclosure to handle the low-bass workload. These anodized aluminum drivers give the Classic speakers a significant leg up on the competition in terms of overall clarity, detail, and openness.
To test the Classics' resolving power, I put on the “Movement IV” of Jennifer Higdon’s haunting Concerto for Orchestra [Telarc, SACD], which features harp, piano, celesta, and a veritable potpourri of percussion instruments. The Classics faithfully reproduced the distinctive timbres and voices of each instrument, capturing the attack and decay individual notes with terrific purity. They also did a superlative job of capturing the acoustics of the reverberant recording venue. The only downside I observed was that the Classics occasionally showed faint traces of midrange edginess, which may be the price to be paid for all the detail and definition those agile aluminum drive units deliver. Nevertheless, I found the clarity of the Classics addictive.