NHT Revamping Product Line

Loudspeaker manufacturer NHT is slimming down its offerings in more ways than one. The Benicia, CA-based company has announced that its new lineup will be reduced from the current 30 models to only 18. The new speakers themselves will be smaller than their predecessors, according to vice president and general manager Chris Byrne, thanks to advances in woofer technology that allow deeper bass to be generated from smaller cabinets with narrower front baffles.

NHT has been paying close attention to trends in the audio market, which has been strongly affected by the growing popularity of home theater. As a result, the new lineup will include only three tower speakers, as opposed to the current seven. In an even more radical move, NHT will no longer market one line of speakers for music and another for home theater. Products to be introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January will be intended "for use with all sources," according to Byrne.

The company will drop its designs that feature punched-up bass and reduced-output rear drivers that help blur the acoustic image. The technique was NHT's effort to make center channel speakers blend more easily with the left-right front pair, and to reduce localization effects that could make sounds intended to come from the center appear offscreen. "The idea was developed when the average TV was much smaller and speakers placed further away," Byrne stated. "As prices have come down in larger screens and consumers place the speakers close to some sort of furniture holding the TV, it [image blurring] has become less relevant." The extra drivers add substantially to the manufacturing costs, and NHT research indicates that few consumers have taken advantage of the sonic potential.

Styling will change too, including a reduced reliance on black laminate, long part of the NHT signature look. "Black laminate was good for its time," Byrne commented, "But there has been a style revolution in audio as well as in other home products, so we're using an outside industrial design group to supplement in-house design for our next products." The new designs will feature rounded corners, and very deep cabinets, such as in the flagship 3.3 model, will be phased out.

In addition to its line of passive speakers, NHT is also considering a speaker design with internal digital signal processing and amplification; similar to Meridian's highly regarded products. Such integrated designs offer many engineering and installation advantages over passive speakers with external amplification, but have not been well accepted by North American audio fans, who prefer to mix and match their components. Home theater fans, who are typically much more décor conscious than audiophiles, may find such products to be exactly what they need.