Ask any veteran audiophile to suggest good speakers in the $800 price range and odds are that he or she will name one of the many fine two-way bookshelf models now available. This is a hotly contested market segment, so there are plenty of attractive and sensibly price options to choose from. But if you wanted my opinion, the speaker I’d propose wouldn’t be a two-way model at all. Instead, I would direct your attention to NHT’s brilliant new Classic Three—a three-way, stand-mount monitor that reproduces music with refinement, resolution, and imaging specificity that few affordable two-way speakers can match.
Many of us instinctively think of the audio spectrum as having three main constituent frequency bands—bass, midrange, and treble—and a clear-cut advantage of the Classic Three is that it provides three anodized aluminum drive units specifically optimized to cover each band (the anodizing process is said to eliminate the hard, “pingy” quality some listeners associate with aluminum-diaphragm-equipped drivers.) By comparison, many affordable two-way speakers can sound somewhat compromised, as if their woofers are being forced to go higher and tweeters to go lower than would normally be optimal. The Classic Threes, however, neatly sidestep this problem by covering the middle range of the music with dedicated 2" dome midrange drivers that offer excellent transient speed, the ability to resolve details well, and a healthy measure of dynamic punch.