NHT (Now Hear This) is known for building value-oriented, high-performance speaker systems that feature innovative designs and construction techniques. A good example would be NHT’s versatile Verve Large Theater system, which can serve as a tabletop or wall-mounted system and is intended to be a perfect complement to today’s popular flat panel TVs— especially to models that, like the Verve system, are finished in gloss black.
Astute readers will note that the Verve system was reviewed in the final issue of The Perfect Vision, but that—at the time—its suggested retail price was $2300. We’re revisiting the system here for two reasons. First, NHT’s new owners have dropped the price of the system to $1500. Second, despite NHT’s recommendation that owners “not use any automated speaker setup functions,” we wanted to try the Verve system with and without a good room EQ system to see if we could tap additional performance potential.
The Verve Large Theater system consists of a trio of three-way/four-driver Verve Large satellites (used as L/C/R speakers), a pair of three-way/ three-driver Verve Small satellites (used as surrounds), and a 200-watt Verve V Woofer. The satellites sport innovative technology in the form of enclosures formed from a dense, acoustically inert material called bulk-molding compound (or BMC); the speaker cabinets feature curved sidewalls that help prevent unwanted internal reflections.
NHT says the Verve satellites are voiced to sound best when placed within about 1.5-feet of walls, making this system be perfect for settings where the speakers will be placed alongside stand- or wall-mounted flat panel TVs. Accordingly, Verve satellites come fitted with tabletop stands that can position the speakers vertically for L/R use or horizontally as center channels, though users can remove the stands if they want to use the built-in keyhole slots to hang the speakers directly on the wall. The V Woofer, in turn, is a slim, slab-like subwoofer also designed for placement against walls (or beside a couch). Because the V Woofer is intended solely for use with the Verve satellites, it provides minimal controls: a bottom-mounted power switch and front-mounted volume control. Unlike most subwoofers in its class, the V Woofer features a non-vented acoustic suspension enclosure said to foster tighter bass and better transient response.
Tip: The Verve system opens up and develops a more full-bodied sound as you give it playing time.
When used without room EQ, the voicing of the Verve system falls somewhat to the warmer and darker side of neutrality, though not to an excessive degree. Your results might vary from ours, however, depending upon where you place the speakers relative to the back wall. The system also produced firm and robust bass, though not super deeply extended bass. Those familiar with the sound of typical vented woofers might find the V Woofer’s bass initially seems somewhat more lightly balanced, but the offsetting benefit is that the NHT’s bass also tends to sound tighter, punchier, and better-defined (different strokes for different folks). The system’s surround sound imaging is a notable strength, especially in terms of filling in information coming from the sides of the soundstage.
Once we tried the Verve system with room EQ engaged, our eyes and ears were opened. Where we would have called the system’s tonal balance good (but not great) without EQ, it became very good to excellent with EQ in play. Overall openness, detail, and resolution improved as well, leading us to think that—despite NHT’s precautions—a good room EQ system can help lift this system to a different and better level of performance. At its best, the system is a very good imager, makes pleasingly taut bass, and offers resolution that falls slightly (but only slightly) behind the best in this class.
Because the Verve satellites are slightly less sensitive than some in our survey you’ll need a bit more power to achieve equivalent volume levels. But when cranking up the volume, be aware that the V Woofer has less dynamic headroom than the satellites do. If you accidentally push the sub beyond its limits, as happened to us when playing the “Under Attack” battle scene from Master and Commander at exuberant volumes, the V Woofer may shut itself down (the woofer’s power light remains lit, but bass output just goes away). If shutdown occurs, simply toggle the power switch to reset the woofer.