Even more impressive was the way the Threes handled the sound of Count Basie’s ensemble on “One-Nighter” from Basie Jam [Pablo, LP]. First, the Threes nailed the cool, reedy voice of Basie’s electric organ, and gently highlighted the economical yet soulful accents and fills Basie contributes throughout the song. The Threes also showed how the bandleader uses the spaces between notes to create unexpected pools of silence that showcase distinctive phrases about to be played by other band members. Best of all, the Threes created rock-solid images of the ensemble on stage so that, as solos are traded back and forth, the listener comes to appreciate the song as a roundtable conversation between performers who not only play but also listen with great intensity.
The point, really, is that the Classic Threes show the myriad small ways in which master musicians make choices and adjustments as they perform, partly to perfect their tone and partly to respond to fellow players. When speakers get this good, listeners feel they are being let in on precious musical secrets—as if granted the privilege of hearing the music from the inside out, just as musicians often hear their own performances. I’ve enjoyed this experience with fine mid-priced and expensive speakers before, but rarely with ones that cost as little as the Classic Threes do.
As I see it, whether listeners are spending $800 or $80,000 on a new pair of loudspeakers, they want the same thing—namely, to get as close as possible to the heart and soul of the music. No other affordable bookshelf speaker I’ve heard does a better job of that than NHT’s Classic Threes. TAS