NHT B-12d Subwoofer

NHT was the first speaker company I ever wrote about, way back in 1989. The company has changed hands several times since then, but its current product offerings are strikingly similar to the originals. It still focuses on compact, well-engineered speakers with gloss-black finishes.

The B-12d would fit right in with the original NHT Zero speaker I described 24 years ago. It has a 12-inch woofer in a 14-inch, cube-shaped, gloss-black enclosure made from 18mm medium-density fiberboard (MDF), with a 1mm aluminum interior liner for added stiffness. Simple, small, sleek. What’s different from the old days? The woofer is driven by a 500-watt BASH high-efficiency amplifier — power that few subs could have matched back then — and it includes a built-in digital signal processor to fine-tune the response.

The B-12d offers stereo and low-frequency effects (LFE) line-level inputs. Its only unusual control is its Boundary switch, which brings in a –3-dB bass cut (good for corner placement) or a +3-dB bass boost (good for placement away from walls).

Panel Comments

When I saw the B-12d next to the Power Sound Audio XV15 and the SVS PC12-NSD, I felt bad for the NHT. “How can this guy possibly compete against these huge subs?” It turned out that the B-12d could not only compete with the big guys, but, in some ways, beat ’em.

I had put the B-12d at the “kid’s table” — the group of three smaller subs — for the listening, and it was readily apparent that the NHT couldn’t match the output of the Power Sound, the SVS, or the Velodyne. When I played “Falling” by the electropop band Olive, the B-12d delivered no real impact on the lowest note of the bass line, and it failed to shake my chair. It gamely attempted to play the deep 16-Hz tone from the recording of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony on my Boston Audio Society test disc, but output was low and distortion was high.

While the B-12d couldn’t match the muscle of the larger subs, it gave us something we valued just as much: finesse. “I loved this sub,” Geoff said. “It sounded the most natural and, although I hate to use this term, ‘musical.’ It was the tightest-sounding sub on the Pink Floyd tune [“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1”] and had the most punch during the crashes in the L.A. River chase scene from Terminator 2.”

I agreed. To me, the B-12d had an “old-school” sound with more of an identifiable sonic character than that of the other subs. It brought out the subtleties of different bassists’ plucking styles — not just with finesse-focused players like Ron Carter, but even with ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, whose sound turns to mud through most other subs. Will couldn’t concur, though; he was disappointed that the B-12d’s deep-bass output didn’t keep pace with its upper-bass performance.

NHT B-12D ($799)

Best for: Audiophiles

Worst for: Hardcore home theaterphilesThe Verdict

How did NHT’s smallish sub fare? I loved the way Geoff summed up the B-12d: “The other ones sound like subs. This one sounds like a speaker.”

Test Bench

24 to 162 Hz, ±3 dB

Low bass (40-63 Hz) average: 120.4 dB

Ultra-low bass (20-31.5 Hz) average: 105.9 dB