Test Report: NHT Absolute 5.1T Speaker System

As I stood chatting with the pilot of a B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber at Edwards Air Force Base recently, I realized that audio geeks have something in common with military aviators. "This air- plane is older than I am," the pilot mused. I thought to myself, "So are some of the speaker designs I review." Like the military, audiophiles don't reflexively throw stuff out if it still works. See? Maybe we're a lot more bad-ass than we first thought.

The NHT Absolute Tower demonstrates the audio industry's willingness to embrace a successful concept no matter what its age. The Absolute Tower is a brand-new model, but it traces its lineage back to the NHT Zero - which happens to be the first speaker I ever wrote about, back in 1989. The core of both speakers is the same: a high-quality 5 1/4-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter mounted in a small, rigid sealed cabinet. The Zero has been through three revisions since then, culminating in today's Absolute Zero.

NHT created the Absolute Tower to address the notorious limitation of all Zero models: They have almost no bass. The Zeros' bass output is so weak that getting a subwoofer to blend smoothly with them isn?t easy. The Absolute Tower fixes this problem by, in essence, tacking a second enclosure and two more woofers onto the bottom of an Absolute Zero. By NHT's numbers, the extra enclosure drops the bass down to 58 Hz - not dramatically lower than the Absolute Zero's rated response of 71 Hz, but low enough that you can easily blend it with a subwoofer for home theater use, or listen to it on its own for stereo.

The Absolute Tower's compact cabinet and 10-layer gloss-black finish continue the elegant aesthetics that have always characterized the Zeros. You can create a full Absolute home theater system by adding an Absolute Center speaker and two or four Absolute Zeros for surround channels. The Absolute Center has two 4 1/2-inch woofers and the same tweeter found in the other Absolutes.

Of course, the NHT Absolute Tower's rated bass ex- tension of 58 Hz doesn't cut it for any serious home theater, so for my review system, NHT included the Classic Ten subwoofer, which looks like an oversize Absolute Zero but incorporates a 10-inch woofer and a 150-watt amplifier.