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NHT VT-1.2 Home Theater System Print E-mail
Monday, 01 November 1999
ImageNHT's VT-1.2 System ($2000 - 5 channels) is one of a growing niche of mid-priced, attractive, relatively small, highly efficient, home theater loudspeaker packages. The 1.2 system is perfectly suited to run with a either an upper end A/V receiver (Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer Elite) or separate decoder-preamp and 5 channel amplifier (Millennium, Cinepro, Acurus). With deep roots in high end audio with successful loudspeaker designs like the 3.3 and an aesthetically appealing and sized design this 1.2 system delivers on its huge potential.

It's rare that a speaker's physical attributes catch my eye but the NHT (Now Hear This) 1.2 Home Theater speaker package is gorgeous in a high gloss black laminate, resembling rosewood. The main VT-1.2 Towers are about 3 feet tall and very skinny at 5.5 inches. They are really no deeper than most speakers but strike a very attractive, narrow profile, due to the side firing 8 inch woofer. The upper portion is video shielded and houses two midrange drivers and 1 soft dome tweeter. As an indication of NHT's commitment to fine performance, a set of spiked feet is included to ensure optimum stability and firmly couple the speakers to the floor for improved bass.

The low-end response is rated at 33 Hz, which is technically excellent bass but it won't cut it for that gut-thumping, blockbuster impact you need for a complete home theater. While, NHT also offers a range of powered subwoofers for this system, I used my reference Sunfire True Subwoofer, to pick up the slack at the extreme low end. Although a few hundred more dollars, the Sunfire's 11 inch tiny cube design and super high output is truly well suited to match these NHTs.

The VS-1.2 satellite speakers are used for the center and surrounds, containing the same driver array as the VT 1.2 Towers, sans the woofer. Going down to 80 Hz, this speaker doesn't meet the 5.1 full bandwidth specification. However, with a subwoofer, this isn't a problem. The rear speakers can be attached to the wall or rested on a pair of speaker stands that come with spiked feet.

The VT 1.2 Towers provided good center imaging but surprisingly more position sensitive then my reference Magnepan Home Cinema ($2500). The NHTs delivered a smooth and clean response across the mid to high end, with a strong, articulate mid-bass. As expected, low bass and subsonics were not that emotionally charged without the addition of a subwoofer. NHT does advise the use of a SAII subwoofer amp as and additional power amp however with the use of a sub, I found it unnecessary.
Nothing demonstrates the tonal balance across the entire frequency range better than my reference 20-bit mastered Liszt, Etudes d'Execution Transcendante, performed by Kemel Gekic. The VT-1.2 Towers performed beautifully, exhibiting a mellow and even tone across the spectrum. While the NHT had plenty of resonance, they appeared more condensed within the boundaries of the speaker plane itself. My reference Magneplaners increased openness and depth, giving the solo piano more room to breathe for the appearance of a bigger concert hall. Still, I found the NHT's revealed a certain presence that was neither harsh nor brittle. Overall, music listening with the VT-1.2 Towers was a very enjoyable experience.

My full appreciation for these speakers came when I used them as a system for watching movies. This system delivered extremely dynamic and powerful theater-style impact on Dolby Digital (AC-3) and DTS-encoded Laserdiscs. I was right inside the tornado for Twister with debris flying all around me. Dinosaurs practically stepped on top of my head in Jurassic Park, and alien craft from Independence Day pretty much took over my living room.

A unique feature on the VT-1.2 Towers addresses the different soundfield patterns associated to music and movie playback. In the down position ("video"), the soundfield is broadened horizontally for a more diffuse and ambient effect. When an on-screen image is accompanied by an off-screen sound the precise localization can be confusing to our senses, lessening realism. According to NHT, smearing of the sound makes this effect, known as cognitive dissonance, less obvious and more natural. Does it work? Yes, 5.1 soundtracks appeared more blended when the switch was in the video position.

The system performed magnificently on whatever the soundtrack delivered. There was a nice lushness to sweeping soundtracks and at the other extreme, explosions were handled effectively and efficiently, never exhibiting any distortion. Dialog was clean, natural and precise.

The five-speaker NHT system retails for $2000 and is well worth consideration as a top notch home theater package, especially for those with speaker size restrictions. It is important to remember that for the best reproduction of 5.1 soundtracks you need at least one high output powered subwoofer. Make it either a matching NHT for under $1000 or buck up for the tiny Sunfire at $1295 and this NHT system is a guaranteed winner.

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