NHT Evolution T6 loudspeaker system Page 2
Even with the slight mid-treble emphasis, string tone was smooth and extended at both extremes on the T6, without becoming wiry or edgy. Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, on the Telarc Soundstream transfer to SACD with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony (SACD-60641), sounded simply magnificent: detailed yet without exaggeration, and with a deep soundstage. I next played Ray Kimber's new Isomike recording of the Fry Street Quartet performing Beethoven's Quartet 5 in A Major, Op.18 No.5 (and other works, SACD FSQCD3), an extremely honest recording of that most honest of musical forms, the string quartet.
My erstwhile record-reviews editor at Hi-Fi News in the 1970s, the late Geoff Jeanes, hated string quartets with a passion, feeling there to be little point to music that wasn't accompanied by glorious—ie, romantic—sound. I disagree with similar passion: I love the honesty of the quartet form: This is anti -audiophile music. Without the listener being distracted by the changing colors of the sound, the harmonies and the melodic lines, the counterpoint and the musical interplay are laid bare, with nowhere for lapses to hide. Reproduced by the NHTs, the Fry Street's violins, viola, and cello materialized in my room. The A-major quartet's yearning Adagio sounded about as good as it can: close without being aggressively rosiny, realistic without being overbright. The midrange was pure and free from coloration, the lower reaches of the cello sounding rich without becoming muddy.
With its low levels of midrange coloration, the NHT T6 system fared well with female voice. "Fever," from Steve Hoffman's remastering of Peggy Lee's Bewitching-Lee (CD, S&P SPR 709), may have been a mono recording, but the NHTs palpably hung the images of the singer and the bass in the center of the space between the speakers. Putting on the new Classic Records DVD-V of the Casino Royale soundtrack (HADA 2007) and selecting—what else?—Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love" was an orgasmic ear fest through the Evolution T6es.
One aspect of the audiophile experience that often goes unremarked is how the character of the equipment changes the listener's musical taste. This is not mere anthropomorphism: the mechanism is the listener's unconscious selection of recordings that bring out the best in the equipment and suppression of those that don't, or that reveal problems. Looking back at the recordings I have described so far, I realize that this is what I have been doing in this review. I have so far avoided discussing the sound of the Evolution T6 with heavy rock or other music with a kick drum and rhythmic bass instruments.
This is not so much due to the Evolution T6 having intrinsic problems in this area—once dialed in, the B6 subwoofers offered an excellent combination of bass weight, extension, and definition—but because, as I wrote above, the optimal balance between subs and satellites changed from recording to recording. When I had it right for the bass guitar on Casino Royale or Ray Brown's double bass on the Soular Energy DVD-A (Hi-Res Music HRM 2011), Nathan East's bass guitar on Eric Clapton's Me and Mr. Johnson (CD, Reprise 48423-2) sounded overripe. If I adjusted the B6's level to sound right on that disc, the DTS soundtrack on the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD-V (Reprise R2-970378) sounded a little too lean.
Don't get me wrong. When I dialed in the correct level of the subwoofers for each of these recordings, they sang. But I suspect that the critical nature of the tuning between the satellites and subwoofers means that the sub alignment is on the verge of overripeness, throwing what ultimately are small differences in mastering into relief.
That bass balance was never an issue with classical orchestral recordings. A recent CD issued by BBC Music magazine features a live 1997 performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Tadaaki Otaka (BBC MM250). The varied orchestral tapestry woven by Elgar was reproduced by the NHT system with rich-sounding bloom. The timpani in the Troyte variation had terrific leading-edge clarity, yet without losing the body of their tone.
The final disc I reached for as I typed these words was the Telarc SACD of the late Frederick Fennell conducting the Cleveland Symphonic Winds in the Gustav Holst wind-band suites (SACD-60639). Another Soundstream transfer dating from 1978, this classic, very early digital recording showed off the Evolution T6's prowess to its best advantage. The speaker system's extended bass allowed that famous Telarc bass drum to be reproduced in full measure, but without boom or blur. Its lack of midrange coloration allowed the individual instruments' tonal colors to be preserved and differentiated, with a pleasingly realistic amount of lower-midrange bloom. The T6's smooth high frequencies and high dynamic range allowed the musical climaxes to be reproduced without strain. High—no, very high—fidelity, especially when I ran the system "commando": with the X1 bypassed for the feed to the M6es, driving the satellites full-range. (More on that subject in a Follow-Up next month.)
NHT's Evolution T6 system may lack the glamour of expensive high-end speakers, but for $4000 it offers extraordinary value for money. It is both well engineered and well made, and if it has faults, they are minor ones of omission rather than of commission. Yes, it requires more than the usual care in setup, but that task is eased by the excellent manual. Highly recommended.