Hands On: NHT SuperPower 2.1 Desktop Audio System
NHT's SuperPower 2.1 Desktop System is a solid, nice-looking solution both mainstream consumers and audiophiles will appreciate.
Now Hear This (NHT) has earned a loyal following that appreciates the California-based company’s line of reasonably priced products. Its latest SuperPower ($199) active desktop speaker addresses the burgeoning computer-based audio category.
NHT offers the SuperPower as an individual speaker to assemble a two-channel system or maybe a five-channel system for gaming applications. The company also has a preconfigured SuperPower 2.1 Desktop System ($749) that includes NHT’s Super 8 powered subwoofer and the company’s Passive Volume Control (PVC). NHT also offers a set of desktop speaker stands.
The SuperPower is highlighted by a two-way, acoustic suspension design that utilizes a 4.5-inch woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The speaker is powered by a 90-watt amplifier, and the rear panel features an on/off switch and a single RCA input. The Super 8’s rear panel has line-in, LFE in, speaker-level connections, and crossover, phase and volume controls. Inside, the Super 8 uses an 8-inch woofer and a 110-watt amplifier. Both are finished in a nice gloss black.
I set up the NHT speakers in two systems that included a HiFiMan EF-6 headphone amp/preamplifier, NAD Master Series M51 DAC, Apple iPad2 and Cambridge Audio CD player. In the other I used an iMac and AudioQuest DragonFly DAC.
The SuperPower is indeed powerful. In a computer desktop/nearfield setup a little bit of volume goes a long way for normal listening levels. During my listening sessions with and without the PVC, however, I found the speakers sounded much better without it as I felt the device zapped the punch of the speakers while adding noise. Setting the speakers up without the PVC was easy. In my iMac/DragonFly configuration I used an AudioQuest Victoria 3.5mm-to-RCA cable from the output of the DragonFly DAC. This enabled me to easily connect to the RCA inputs of the speakers and control the volume with my computer. In the other system I used I ran a set of Transparent Audio RCAs from the output of the EF-6 to the speakers’ RCA inputs and used the EF-6’s volume control.
With the Class A design HiFiMan EF-6, I thought the system provided a sense of warmth along with a rock-solid image. The SuperPower portrayed time and rhythm of songs like the Slash/Kid Rock collaboration “I Hold On” (Apple Lossless) with equal authority as low-resolution content like an AAC download of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Tell Me Baby.” On the latter, the speakers retained the impact of Flea’s slap bass playing and the musicality of Chad Smith’s hi-hat accents in the chorus without adding any hardness or shrillness. Listening to the iMac-based system, I thought the speakers distinguished themselves from the typical multimedia speaker crowd by providing a surprising amount of bottom end, power and midrange smoothness.
I think the SuperPower is probably designed to add punch to upper bass and lower midrange. Before the speakers are broken in, this upper bass/lower midrange hump is quite pronounced. The hump will smoothen out over time, but it is still evident to a certain extent. Overall, the SuperPower is a solid, nice-looking solution that both mainstream consumers and audiophiles will appreciate.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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