AUDIO EQUIPMENT Reviews for May 1999
The NSMT Model 10 Loudspeakers and Loudspeaker Stands
Review by Graham J. Hardy Ph.D.
NSMT Loudspeakers Inc., Box 326, Garden City, NY 11530-0326; 516-486-8285; SRP: $799 pr. with stands [sic]; www.nsmt-loudspeakers.com
Almost a year ago I dismantled my stereo system. Frankly, I just wasn't listening to it any more, and I hadn't for some time. Why did this happen? It seems there were a number of contributing factors. Firstly, I had recently listened to digital recordings employing a 96kHz/24bit protocol which showed very starkly how much is missing in the 44kHz/16bit CD standard. Anyway, this realisation caused me to lose the will to listen to my CDs. Secondly, I had become generally disenchanted with the high end with its absurd prices and ludicrous advertising claims. I hankered for the good old days of high end audio. I speak of a time when: the only decent hi-fi magazines to be had would slip into the back pocket of a pair of Levis, of a time when Gordon J. Holt was writing every month [but publishing every year? - Ed.], and of a time when many companies existed that made their living tweaking other company's products sent to them by impecunious audiophiles. The third reason was a good friend introduced me to his very impressive home theater system. This experience enlightened me as to the importance of sound to the proper enjoyment of a modern movie. It was very obvious that my friend's home theater sound would put to shame most public movie theater's sound systems. Of course, the next thing I was buying big screen TVs, DVD players, surround sound processors, the whole nine yards. Very quickly the stereo had been booted out. Please understand, my defunct stereo system would have been considered: quite 'de rigueur' by most audiophiles (and obsessively weird by all normal people). I wasn't lacking the gear, I was lacking the motivation to persevere.
Now, home theater is great fun but it will never replace music. After a long time without music in the house I yearned for singing voices, massed strings and some unruly '70's rock (this is very akin to listening to months of impeachment hearings and yearning for a thing called government). I'm not talking about imaging, soundstages, transparency etc, I'm talking about loud music streaming through every nook and cranny of the house. The kind of situation where your teenage son asks you to "TURN IT DOWN NOW".
I didn't want to pack up my home theater (now in the ostensible audio room) so I set about resurrecting a stereo system in the living room. All this occurred at about the same time that Paul Cervantes suggested I take a listen to the NSMTModel 10 loudspeakers. And listen I did.
The NSMTModel 10 loudspeaker is a mini-monitor measuring 5 _" wide by 10" high by 6 1/2" deep with a satin black wood finish and black grille cloth. Accompanying these loudspeakers were a pair of stands 30" tall, spiked, sand-filled (quite heavy) and finished in satin black. The speaker/stand combination looked very chic on my Egyptian rug.
After experimenting with these loudspeakers I found a good configuration was keeping them about 6 feet apart, about 4 feet from the back wall, and canted in about 10 degrees.
After I constructed the new stereo around the NSMT10's I was eager to listen to the initial results. I let the electronics warm up and put on Heifetz playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. My first impression of the sound was GOSH! (American equivalent is WOW!). I had the Penny & Giles at maximum and the NSMT10's seemed quite happy playing really loud. The house was filled with music. I proceeded to feed the CD transport a carefully selected pile of CDs. The first acid test: "How Do They Deal With 'The Who'?" I chose 'Who's Next'. This is a record I usually put on as a musical overture to a night out with the boys: kick-ass rock'n roll while I'm shaving, with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale knocking elbows with the Barbasol. MCA has put out three separate versions of this studio album but the best one for sound quality is the Gold CD mastered by Glenn Meadows in Nashville of all places. The NSMT10's portrayed all the energy and raw aggression of this extraordinary recording accomplishment. Deep bass was largely absent from the presentation so I augmented the NSMT10's with my trusty Muse Model 18 subwoofer. After about an hour of adjustment I got the NSMTsatellites to blend very well with the sub.
Next, I turned my attention to a favorite genre of mine: the female jazz singer. I have a compilation disc featuring twelve different singers recorded during the period from 1955 to 1965 at studios mostly in New York and Los Angeles. Female voice is a good test of the tonal accuracy of a system in the upper registers as well as measuring imaging properties. The NSMT10's did very well here, I would describe their tonal balance as warm and inviting. I just sat enthralled as everyone from Blossom Dearie to Nina Simone to Pearl Bailey sang their hearts out. Another disc I like to use during system auditions is a 1959 stereo recording of the prologue to Wagner's Opera Gotterdammerung performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Hans Knappertsbusch. There is plenty of ambient noise on this disc, one can hear the conductor moving about on a creaky podium as well as the sound of musician's chairs and music stands. These sounds are not so loud as to detract from the music but they are useful guides to the detail retrieval capabilities of a system. Again I just sat and reveled in the glorious music Wagner and the NSMT10's were making.
I am a great lover of the middle period string quartets of Beethoven. Strangely, no recording I have heard comes close to capturing the experience of sitting in a chamber music auditorium with a quartet and a live audience. My theory is that a significant aspect of the appreciation of this astounding music is actually watching the players perform. I picked out the 9th Quartet performed by the Quartetto Italiano and, my theory notwithstanding, was quite impressed with the fine job the NSMT10's did with this music. The imaging was very good and, though I would have liked a little more high frequency extension, the tonal balance was very acceptable. I'm also a fan of the jazz quintet ensemble in the classic sense: meaning piano, bass, drums and two other instruments. A good example of this configuration is the Art Pepper Quintet with the two extra instruments: an alto sax and trumpet. I put on 'Smack Up' and went off to cook dinner. I spent evening after evening slowly going through my collection and the NSMT10's really proved their worth.
The NSMT10's are top performing mini-monitors with exemplary imaging and tonal accuracy. They play loud without sign of strain and take up very little space. They would be an excellent choice for someone wanting High End sound for not much money (about $800 including the stands). My congratulations to NSMTfor producing a terrific little loudspeaker.
Other Equipment Used In Review:
Monarchy Audio SE100 monoblock amplifiers, Audio Alchemy DDS Pro CD Transport, Digital-to-Analog converter custom designed and built by the author featuring: over-sampling software consisting of an on-the-fly adaptive algorithm reproducing musical transients free from the pre- and post- echo prevalent in nearly all digital gear, Penny & Giles studio grade potentiometer (no pre-amp), MusicMeter cables throughout, Townshend Seismic Sinks, API Power Wedge model 114 line conditioner.
-- Graham J. Hardy